Divorce centres, the FJC and some statistics: The last week in family law

In a controversial decision, the Court of Protection has authorised the sterilisation of a mother of six with learning difficulties. The 36-year old woman has Autistic Spectrum Disorder and specialists said she had physical health problems that could put her life in danger if she became pregnant again. Mr Justice Cobb authorised the health authority and social services to use forced entry into the woman’s home and ‘necessary restraint’ so that she could be taken to hospital for the sterilisation procedure.

A High Court judge has ordered a county council to pay £17,000 in damages under the Human Rights Act following a “truly lamentable” catalogue of errors, omissions, delays and serial breaches of court orders in a child care case. Mr Justice Keehan said that the local authority did not issue care proceedings until some nine months after the child had been taken into care, and that the case had been further delayed by various failures of the local authority. The case is the first reported domestic award of damages for a child in care proceedings.

Family lawyers’ association Resolution has reported that it has recently met with HM Courts and Tribunal Service (‘HMCTS’) about current and future moves to central divorce centres. According to Resolution (and confirmed by HMCTS), the current plan is that the North East centre (Durham, Bradford (and Harrogate) and Doncaster) was operational from November 2014, the Wales centre (Neath & Port Talbot, Newport (Gwent) and Wrexham) was operational from January 2015, the North West centre at Liverpool will be operational from February 2015, the Midlands centre at Nottingham and Stoke-on-Trent will be operational from February 2015, the South West centre at Southampton will be operational from April 2015 and the London and South East centre at Bury St Edmunds will be operational from October 2015.

The Ministry of Justice has announced that Elizabeth Isaacs QC, Helen Morris and Sara McIlroy have been appointed by the Lord Chancellor, in consultation with the President of the Family Division, to be members of the Family Justice Council (‘FJC’) for 3 years from the 2nd of March 2015. The FJC was established in July 2004 to promote an inter-disciplinary approach to family justice as an advisory non-departmental public body. It is chaired by the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby. The FJC encourages greater understanding and co-operation between the different agencies in the family justice system and its membership is multi-disciplinary.

Cafcass has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for January 2015. In that month Cafcass received a total of 887 care applications, almost the same as those received in January 2014. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 2,843 new private law cases, which is a 15% decrease on January 2014 levels.

And finally, new figures released by the Office of National Statistics show that the number of civil partnerships formed in the UK in 2013 was 6,276, a decrease of 11% from the 7,037 recorded in 2012. Meanwhile, the number of civil partnership dissolutions granted in England and Wales in 2013 was 974, an increase of 20% since 2012, when there was 809 dissolutions.