Figures, adoption and reform: The last week in family law

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (‘Cafcass’) has released its latest figures for care applications and private law demand. During March 2014 Cafcass received a total of 910 care applications. This figure represents a 3% decrease compared to those received in March 2013. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,676 new private law cases, which represents a 7% decrease on March 2013 levels.

The Department for Education has released figures showing that more than 96,000 people interested in adopting a child have contacted First4Adoption in the last 12 months, an average of 327 new contacts every day. First4Adoption, the government-funded information service, was set up in April 2013 to help address the serious shortage of adopters, which contributes to delays in finding loving homes for children. Of the 96,000 people who contacted the service, over 6,800 went on to directly contact an adoption agency of their choice – taking the vital next step in becoming an adoptive parent.

The 11th ‘View From the President’s Chambers’ has been published by the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby. In it the President says that the 22nd of April “marks the largest reform of the family justice system any of us have seen or will see in our professional lifetimes”. On that date the new single family court will come into existence, and a number of reforms of the family justice system will take place. Taken as a whole, says the President, these reforms amount to a revolution. He went on: “Central to this revolution has been – has had to be – a fundamental change in the cultures of the family courts. This is truly a cultural revolution.”

As part of those reforms, the new Public Law Outline (‘PLO’) and the new Child Arrangements Programme (‘CAP’) have been published. The PLO deals with how public law children cases, such as care proceedings, should be managed, and the CAP sets out ‘best practice’ in relation to how the courts should deal with disputes between parents over the arrangements for their children.

The baby daughter of an Italian woman who was forced to undergo a caesarean section has finally been adopted, after an adoption order was made by Sir James Munby in the High Court this week. Alessandra Pacchieri’s child was taken by Essex County Council’s social services, after she visited the UK for a training course. The bipolar sufferer was said to be suffering from “paranoid delusions” and found to be unable to care for her child. The baby, known only as P, was born on the 24th of August 2012, and Ms Pacchieri’s last contact with her was in May of last year. The court heard that Ms Pacchieri hoped to see her daughter again “one day”.

And finally, an Arab politician who wrote an agreement to pay his estranged wife £60,000 a month has told a court he had not been wearing his reading glasses and did not know what he was signing. The unnamed  man, who has four wives, signed the paperwork when the pair met in a Chinese restaurant, a High Court judge heard. However, Mr Justice Mostyn said he believed the former government minister was not naive and said he found the explanation hard to accept. Details of the case emerged in a written ruling by the judge, who said there was evidence of “serious wealth”, following a hearing in the Family Division in the High Court in London. The politician is embroiled in a divorce dispute after his marriage to his fourth wife broke down. Mr Justice Mostyn had been asked to make decisions about how much maintenance the man should pay pending final rulings on the dispute.