Weekly Family Law Update September 10, 2020

Medical treatment, marriage and domestic abuse: The last week in family law

Court authorises withdrawal of child’s medical treatment

The High Court has granted an application by Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust for a declaration that withdrawing intensive care from a 12-year-old boy with brain injuries is in his best interests.

The boy suffered a “profound, severe neurological injury” in April, after he was found hanging in his bedroom. The Trust said that the treatment he was receiving was prolonging his death, and not saving his life. The application was opposed by the boy’s parents, who wanted treatment to continue, arguing it gave him a chance to recover.

However, Mr Justice Hayden, hearing the application, accepted the medical evidence that further treatment was not in the boy’s best interests. Describing it as “a case of almost unbearable sadness”, he concluded that the brain damage was “so extensive and widespread that he will not make any recovery from this awful episode and keeping him alive will achieve no benefit”.

Law Commission proposes to give couples more freedom to choose where they marry

The Law Commission has launched a consultation into the laws governing marriage. The Commission says that the experience of couples wanting to get married during the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that the laws governing how and where couples can marry are outdated and unnecessarily restrictive.

Currently, many couples face a conflict between how they wish to celebrate their wedding, and how the law requires them to celebrate it. Unnecessary regulation prevents couples from marrying in a place that is meaningful to them and having a ceremony with the vows, rituals and music that reflects their wishes and beliefs.

The Law Commission is consulting on proposals to modernise these laws, giving couples greater freedom over where they hold their weddings and the form the ceremony will take. The proposals would enable all couples to have a ceremony that is meaningful to them. As part of this, the proposals could allow couples to choose to have weddings outdoors or in private family homes, and to have simpler, less expensive weddings. Ultimately, says the Commission, the proposals will bring the process into the 21st century and allow the law to recognise the diverse ways that couples in England and Wales wish to celebrate their weddings.

Professor Nick Hopkins, Family Law Commissioner at the Law Commission, said:

“A couple’s wedding day is one of the most important events in their lives, yet the 19th century laws are not fit for purpose and stop many couples having a wedding that is meaningful and personal to them.

“Our proposals would give couples the freedom to choose the wedding venue they want and a ceremony that is meaningful for them. By doing so, we hope to make the laws that govern weddings reflect the wishes and needs of today’s society.”

New domestic abuse advice line for businesses

The domestic abuse charity Hestia has launched a new advice line for businesses supporting employees experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse.

The charity say that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, with 10 per cent of UK victims reporting abuse at work.

Funded by the Home Office, the Everyone’s Business Advice Line will be a point of contact for businesses, supporting them on how to approach disclosures of domestic abuse by their employees, particularly in light of Covid-19. They will also receive advice so that they can signpost staff to specialist domestic abuse services.

Hestia says lockdown has shown that home is not always safe for everyone, and with more people working remotely due to Covid-19, cases of domestic abuse are rising. The charity saw a 47 per cent increase in victims reaching out for information and support on its free domestic abuse app, Bright Sky.