Family Law

Family Law Newsletter #2225.03.19

Guidance & Updates

Spousal maintenance speech by Mostyn J

Compensation scheme for more victims of child sexual abuse:

Governments updated strategy to end violence against women and girls [pdf]

Reports

Nuffield Foundation: Reforming the Grounds for Divorce [pdf]

The Police response to domestic abuse: an update report [pdf]

Case Summaries

B (A Child: Post-Adoption Contact) [2019] EWCA Civ 29

B was born in April 2017 and after an unsuccessful residential assessment she was removed from her birth parent’s care and placed with foster-to-adopt carers. The final care and placement orders were granted two months later and they did not envisage post-adoption direct contact with the birth parents. The adoption application was issued in December 2017. The birth parents did not consent to the order but they did not seek leave to oppose the making of the order. They wished for post-adoption contact and leave to make the application was granted in May 2018. At the final hearing in September 2018 the application for post-adoption contact was refused.

The birth parents were granted permission to appeal on the ground of some other compelling reason for the grant of permission. They argued that the purpose of S51A of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 was to reflect the changing view about the benefits of greater openness in adoption and recent research into contact justified consideration by the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal summarised the Pre s51A authorities and then considered whether S51A represented a change in the test to be applied in such cases.  They noted that the explanatory note stated that the purpose of introducing chances between adopted children and birth families was with the aim of reducing the disruption that inappropriate contact can cause to adoptive placements. They therefore accepted that Parliament’s intention in enacting s51A was to enhance the position of adopters rather than the contrary. The appeal was dismissed.

Transcript: https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2019/29.html

P (Notice of care proceedings to father without parental responsibility) [2019] EWFC 13 (11 March 2019)

In 2018 a LA obtained a final care order in respect of a teenage girl, Z who was at high risk of sexual harm. Her parents accepted the threshold criteria was met and a final care order was made. At the time of those proceedings, Z was pregnant. Z’s baby, P, was born in December 2018. The LA promptly issued care proceedings and obtained an interim care order. The care plan was that upon discharge from hospital P should be placed with Z in her foster placement. That plan was implemented.

P’s father is believed to be T. T is more than 10 years older than Z and believed to be part of a group of predatory men who have groomed and sexually exploited a number of teenage girls of whom Z is one. He has been prosecuted for offences relating to his sexual relationship with Z and is presently serving a custodial sentence.

It is not known if T has any information of Z’s pregnancy and P’s birth. He has never had contact with P and does not have parental responsibility. It is believed he is not aware of these care proceedings. The LA applied to be relieved of their responsibility to give notice of the proceedings to T.

The judge hearing this application first considered the law of Article 8, the right to respect for family life. The first issue was whether there is any relationship between T and P which can be described as amounting to family life. T has no parental responsibility and since Z has been in foster care she has had no contact with T. It is unclear if T was aware of Z pregnancy, if he did become aware he has taken no step to assert he is P’s father. He was not present at the birth, he has had no contact with P and has never seen P. The Judge described T and P’s relationship as no more than that of a “naked blood tie” and concluded that there no family life existed between T and P and therefore T does not have any Article 8 rights. It follows, therefore, that Article 6 is not engaged either.

The Judge allowed the LA’s application for the requirement to serve notice of the proceedings on T to be disapplied due to the circumstances of the case making it in P’s best interest for notice not to be given.

Transcript: https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/OJ/2019/B9.html

M (Female Genital Mutilation Protection Order – No Order on Application), Re [2019] EWHC 527 (Fam)

This case concerned M, an 8-year-old girl. The issue for the High Court was whether a female genital mutilation protection order made without notice to the parents in respect of M on 30 July 2018 and continued thereafter should continue until M is 18 or older.

M and her brother O became known to the local authority following a child protection referral from the school they attended. O attended school on one occasion with a bruised eye and marks on his nose, he refused to say what happened. M told school staff her father had beaten O. A child protection medical of O took place and concluded that O’s injuries were from a forceful impact and unlikely to have been caused accidentally. O’s parents signed an agreement the children should live with the paternal grandparents.

At an initial child protection case conference, the local authority became aware that the mother was a victim of type 1 FGM. The mother said it had been done when she was 4 years old. The Local Authority had concerns about the parents’ undertaking in this regard, arising from the experiences of working with the parents and their unwillingness to accept the father’s responsibility for causing O’s injuries.

The parents signed a written agreement which recorded the concerns about FGM and that the family were seeking to travel to Kenya, during which time the local authority were concerned that M would be subjected to FGM. The parents were required to inform the local authority where they would be staying in Kenya but they did not do so and did not tell them they were travelling via Egypt, where FGM is strikingly prevalent.

The local authority applied and was granted a FGM protection order. Case management directions were given and a five-day hearing was listed. Following a positive assessment, M was confirmed to not have suffered any form of FGM. The local authority formed the view that M could be adequately safeguarded whilst in the care of her parents and therefore would not be seeking the continuation of the FGM protection order.

All the parties invited the court to discharge with the FGM protection order and the associated orders which prevent M from travelling outside this jurisdiction. The Judge concluded that the local authority were right to bring the proceedings for the protection order but it was neither necessary nor proportionate to continue with the order. The supplemental orders, including in relation to M’s passport and restriction of travel were also discharged.

Transcript: https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2019/527.html