A will, child maintenance and parental alienation: The last week in family law

A group of children’s social care experts is to lead a review of the rise in applications for care orders and the number of children in care. The review will examine the reasons for the rises, and will aim to identify changes that could be made to local authority and court systems, as well as national and local policies and practices to stem the increase of care cases and children in the care system. Participants in the review include the President of the Family Division Sir James Munby, the chief executive of Cafcass Anthony Douglas, the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services Alison Michalska, the children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, and assorted academics, directors of children’s services and policy advisers. The review will run until June 2018.

The President of the Family Division Sir James Munby has ruled that the seals on the envelope containing the will of the Duke of Windsor, the abdicated King Edward VIII, who died in 1972, can be broken. The ruling was made on the request of Oliver Urquhart Irvine, librarian and assistant keeper of the Queen’s Archives, who sought a copy of the duke’s will and codicil for research purposes. The will was sealed in accordance with a century-old practice in relation to royal wills. Sir James said it would be ‘absurd’ to deny the Royal Archives copies of the will and codicil of someone “who was born a royal prince, died a royal duke and was in his time His Majesty the King”. He ruled that one copy of the will be delivered to Irvine and the document then resealed, stressing that he had not opened the envelope, read the will or codicil or had “any idea as to their contents”.

The Department for Work and Pensions has published estimates of the child maintenance outcomes of clients who called the Child Maintenance Options service in February to April 2017. The results are based on a telephone survey among Options clients which took place in June 2017. They indicate that over a quarter of clients had family-based arrangements (i.e. they had arranged child maintenance themselves), that almost 9 out of 10 clients with a family-based arrangement thought it worked well, and that 14,900 children are benefiting from effective family-based arrangements after contact with Options.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services has published the third in a series of thematic reports which consider the response the police service provides to victims of domestic abuse. The Inspectorate found that the service provided by the police to victims of domestic abuse has improved markedly since the first report in March 2014. However, there are still areas where improvements are required in some forces to ensure that victims of domestic abuse are better protected and supported, and to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for the harm they are causing. Some police forces are still failing to assess the risk and respond appropriately at the first point of contact. Others are inconsistent in the way they use their powers to keep people safe, and some forces are still not doing enough to pursue positive outcomes, where perpetrators are charged with an offence and brought before a court.

Divorcing parents could lose their children if they try to turn them against the other parent, under a new process to deal with parental alienation being trialled by Cafcass. Under the process alienating parents will be offered a 12-week intense ‘positive parenting’ programme, designed to help them put themselves in their child’s position, and give them skills to break their patterns of behaviour. However, if the alienating parent continues to perpetuate the abuse then they could have their child removed from them and placed with the other parent. In extreme cases, the alienating parent could even have their contact with their child stopped.

And finally, the High Court has ruled against a husband who tried to have his wife’s solicitor barred from acting for her in divorce proceedings, as the solicitor had previously had a consultation with the husband’s representative. The husband claimed that his representative met with the solicitor solely to ascertain whether the husband should instruct the solicitor. However, Mr Justice Williams held that the husband had his representative consult the solicitor at least in part so that the solicitor would be ‘conflicted out’ of representing the wife. In any event, said Mr Justice Williams, no confidential or privileged material relevant to the divorce proceedings was communicated to the solicitor, so there was no conflict of interests.