Courts, adoptions and child maintenance: The last week in family law

An independent evaluation of the pilot Family Drug and Alcohol Court (‘FDAC’) has found that parents who had been through the FDAC process as opposed to ordinary care proceedings were more likely to stop misusing substances and, if they did so, more likely to be reunited with their children. FDAC is a new way of dealing with care proceedings when parental substance misuse is causing harm to children. Unlike conventional care proceedings, parents in FDAC see the same judge throughout and meet with them every fortnight. They also receive support from a multi-disciplinary team, which helps them access substance misuse services and provides assistance in tackling other problems such as housing, domestic violence and financial hardship. The FDAC pilot ran from January 2008 to March 2012 at the Inner London Family Proceedings Court.

Statistics released by the First4Adoption service, which launched in January 2013 and became fully operational in April 2013, show that in its first year of operation 94,752 individuals used the website and there were 2,196 calls to its information line. The service’s annual report reveals that a total of 6,808 website visitors went on to directly contact an adoption agency, with evidence also emerging that some of these people have become approved adopters.

The Department for Work and Pensions has launched a Child Maintenance Toolkit. The toolkit provides organisations that support child maintenance clients with accurate information about child maintenance and the changes taking place. This includes information about the Child Maintenance Service fees and charges and the ending of Child Support Agency arrangements. Also included is information about wider support that is available to separated families. The Toolkit includes booklets, factsheets, leaflets and an online calculator.

The Court of Appeal has given guidance regarding judges’ meetings with children who are subject to family proceedings. In Re KP the mother was appealing against an order that she should return her child to Malta. In the course of the first hearing Mrs Justice Parker had interviewed the child for more than an hour. The Court of Appeal found that the judge had wrongly used the interview for evidence gathering, which had influenced her decision to order the return of the child. Accordingly, the mother’s appeal was allowed and a re-hearing was directed.

Forced marriage is not confined to Britain’s Muslim communities but exists among all minority groups, Baroness Butler-Sloss has said. The former High Court judge, who chairs the National Commission on Forced Marriage, said that there was “a great deal of pressure” on parents and elders to ensure that children married within their strongly religious communities, but there was “a thin line” between legitimate emotional pressure and coercion. She told the UK’s first national conference on forced marriage: “We have discovered that it is not exclusively a Muslim issue. It is an issue that affects other minority communities for instance Sikhs, Hindus, Orthodox Jews and indeed any group that values the tight-knit community of which it is part and is very concerned that members of that community should not marry outside the community.”

And finally, an oil executive is facing the threat of a landmark criminal prosecution for trying to hide his money in a divorce battle. The 62-year-old businessman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, kept secret offshore bank accounts, forged bank statements and even claimed to be making maintenance payments to his dead first wife — in an attempt to reduce the amount he would have to pay his second wife. One hidden account alone concealed £500,000. Details of the alleged fraud and perjury were disclosed in a High Court judgment in January. The judge is now expected to refer the executive to the Crown Prosecution Service.