Cafcass figures, grandparents and health: The last week in family law

The Court of Appeal has ruled that a Latvian child must be adopted in the UK. The case CB (A Child) concerned an appeal by a mother in care proceedings against the dismissal of applications for contact with the child, for permission to oppose the making of an adoption order, and for the case to be transferred to Latvia, where she is a citizen. The appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal, despite the fact that the Latvian authorities supported the application for the case to be transferred to that country. The mother had claimed that other European countries have a greater understanding of familial ties, whereas in this country “too little weight is attached to the child’s biological, national, ethnic and cultural inheritance”. However in his leading judgment the President of the Family Division Sir James Munby dismissed the claim, saying that: “The fact that the law in this country permits adoption in circumstances where it would not be permitted in many European countries is neither here nor there.”

Cafcass has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for July 2015. In that month Cafcass received a total of 1,111 care applications, which is a 9% increase compared to those received in July 2014. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,554 new private law cases, which is a 23% increase on July 2014 levels, continuing the upward trend of recent months.

There has been a steep rise in the number of grandparents going to court to acquire parental responsibility for their grandchildren by applying for Special Guardianship Orders (‘SGOs’), according to lawyers. Apparently, grandparents are also increasingly taking action to secure contact with their grandchildren in the event of a divorce, and often have to step in due to parental illness or premature death. The number of SGOs has risen by 47 per cent over the last four years, from 1,313 in 2011 to 1,931 in 2014.

A judge has criticised the Legal Aid Agency (‘LAA’) for its unhelpful cooperation in determining who should bear the cost of translating documents during court proceedings. The agency was invited by Her Honour Judge Lynn Roberts to clarify its position, and the legal basis for it, in care proceedings brought by a local authority in which the Polish parents, who were entitled to legal aid, were unable to read documents unless they were translated. In her judgment Roberts highlighted the ‘fruitless’ attempts to get the agency to ’provide a clear view’ of their position ’and equally importantly, the basis for their position’. The agency, she said, was invited to intervene in the case ‘in order that a decision could be reached by the court which could be relied on in this case and in others with the benefit of the LAA’s considered position’. Roberts said she was surprised to receive an email from the agency, in which it declined the invitation and suggested the costs be split equally between the parties involved. Roberts said the agency, in its ‘disappointing’ email, not only misunderstood the position of the local authority, but also failed to set out any basis for the decision or clarify whether this is in fact a decision or merely “a suggestion”.

And finally, a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health but based upon UK data indicates that men and women in non-marital cohabiting relationships have midlife health outcomes broadly similar to those in marriages. However, the research also found that women who had married in their late 20s or early 30s and remained married had the best health in midlife. Women who never married or cohabited had worse health than married women. However, this effect was only manifested in fibrinogen levels, indicating that not marrying or cohabiting is less detrimental among women than men or, as has been suggested, being married appears to be more beneficial to men.