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Family Law Journal: March 2014

Rebecca Huxford outlines the courts’ approach to validity of marriage and when there may be a ‘non-marriage’

Family lawyers are generally only consulted at the stage when the relationship has broken down and the parties wish to manage the consequences. By that time, it may be too late to resolve any issues that the couple may not be legally married despite one or both of the individuals believing that they did contract a valid marriage. There are a number of particular circumstances in which the validity of marriage may be relevant, for example, declarations where one of the parties does not have mental capacity or where it is suggested that full consent was not given by a party. However, this article will focus on the difficulties where a ceremony has taken place, but it is argued by one party that the relevant formalities to make this a marriage were never complied with.

SA Law LLP

Ruth Abrams analyses the increase in litigants in person and the move away from legal representation

It is expected that 2014 will see more litigants in person than ever descending on courts and fighting their own battles. While it is difficult to put a number on how many people will decide to represent themselves in court, this is clearly a growing trend and these rising numbers are putting a strain on an already congested court system.

Toby Hales examines whether recent developments are an erosion of the guidance in Re L on contact and domestic abuse

Practitioners of private children law will be aware of the difficulties, complexities and, very often, frustrations of dealing with contact disputes in which allegations of domestic abuse are made. Clear case law is in place and also practice direction (PD) 12J of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 (FPR 2010) to assist us, yet issues often arise in respect of the procedure to be adopted in resolving those allegations and dealing with the problems of interim contact in the meantime.

Pannone LLP

Vicki McLynn considers the question of the interests of third parties in financial remedy proceedings

The issue of third-party interests in financial remedy proceedings is arising with increasing frequency. The permutations are numerous as evidenced by the case law reviewed below but it is often the family home or business that is involved. It is imperative that practitioners recognise when such interests need to be considered and the procedure to be followed. Failure to act correctly could most certainly be grounds for a negligence claim.

Ellie Foster sets out the implications of any gaps in a marital agreement and the importance of needs in big money

The decision of Moor J in AH v PH [2013] continues the line of authorities on marriage settlements following the seminal case of Radmacher v Granatino [2010]. However, not only does the case contain an interesting analysis of the weight to be given to a foreign marriage settlement and of the wife’s needs but it also considers the rarely seen ‘millionaire’s defence’.

Rachel Donald asks whether the enforcement provisions of r33 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 can be undermined by a variation application

The introduction of the general enforcement application in family proceedings under r33.3 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 was a welcome step towards simplifying the enforcement process and minimising costs to unpaid parties. Previously, the enforcement methods available to debtors were governed purely by civil rules lead by the Rules of the Supreme Court 1965 and the County Court Rules 1981. However, it was widely acknowledged that civil remedies did not lend themselves well to family proceedings. Parliament’s intention was to provide a one-stop-shop application to empower the family courts to determine a variety of enforcement methods after considering the financial resources of a party. Three years on it is possible to now consider the impact of the legislative reform and whether the simplified process has had the desired effect in context of related and competing family and civil legislation.

Amy Harris looks at the Cohabitation Rights Bill and the array of provisions dealing with cohabitation for both cohabitants and spouses

The Office of National Statistics reports that cohabitation is the fastest growing family type in the UK. The number of people cohabiting has doubled since 1996 and more children are now born to unmarried parents than married parents. Many couples still believe in the notion of a ‘common law’ husband or wife. It is clear that there is inadequate information and guidance readily available for cohabiting couples about their legal position.