Weekly Family Law Update September 16, 2020

A care case, remote hearings, a new judge and strained relationships: Children can return home after father has anger management treatment

A family court judge has allowed two children to return to their family, after the local authority had had them removed, due to concerns about the physical chastisement of one of the children.

The two children, a five-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl, lived with their mother and her partner, the father of the younger child.

The local authority issued care proceedings in relation to both children following concerns about them, including about physical and emotional harm to them arising from the father’s anger management resulting in physical chastisement of the older child, and the emotional impact on both children arising from that.

Social workers said that the man had repeatedly chastised the boy by hitting him, and by shouting at him. Both children were temporarily placed with foster carers, pending decisions about their long-term future.

The local authority sought the permanent removal of the children from their parents, with a view to them living with their maternal great aunt and uncle under a Special Guardianship Order.

However, the judge ordered that the children could return to the family home, after finding that the father had changed, after attending anger management courses and a Caring Dad’s programme. The judge did, however, make a supervision order, which imposes a duty on the local authority to ‘advise, assist and befriend’ the children.

Further consultation on remote hearings announced

The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, has announced the commencement of a further consultation on remote hearings in the family court, following their widespread use during the pandemic. The consultation will run for three weeks from the 10th of September until the 30th of September, and a report is expected in mid-October.

The consultation will be carried out by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, which carried out a rapid consultation on remote hearings in March/April, and received feedback from over 1000 parents, carers and professionals. The subsequent report included many insights and suggestions for good practice which was welcomed by the President, and was widely seen to be helpful and informative.

The Observatory say that it is now clear that, while some physical court hearings are taking place, social distancing will continue to apply and many hearings will still take place over video or by phone for many months to come. The system is still adjusting to these changes while facing the challenge of the backlog of cases. As a result, they are carrying out a second, follow-up survey of how the system is working.

New High Court judge

Nigel Poole QC has been appointed a High Court judge, one of six new High Court justices to be appointed.

He will be assigned to the Family Division, and will be known as The Honourable Mr Justice Poole. He was called to the Bar in 1989 and took Silk in 2012. He was appointed as a Recorder in 2009 and as a Deputy High Court Judge in 2017.

He will take up appointment on 1 October 2020 consequential to the elevation of Lord Justice Baker to the Court of Appeal.

Charity warns of lockdown strains on relationships

Citizens Advice has warned that the coronavirus pandemic is creating an “enormous strain” on relationships.

The charity reported that searches for advice about getting a divorce have risen since April, and that views on its divorce webpage on the first September weekend were up 25% compared with the same date in 2019.

Tom MacInnes, chief analyst for Citizens Advice, said: “We know that this pandemic has put an enormous strain on people financially but our data shows that strain is also being felt in people’s relationships.”