Plain English, Alfie Evans and a maintenance order: The last week in family law

A judgment in a child care and adoption case has been widely praised for being written in plain English, and in a way that is easily understandable by non-lawyers, and in particular the child’s parents. In the case Jack (A Child : care and placement orders) Deputy District Judge Reed, sitting in the family court at Swindon, took great pains to couch her judgment in terms that the parents, especially the father, who has a mild learning difficulty and finds reading difficult, could understand. In the judgment she explained that she had decided that if the child “went to live with his mum and dad his needs would not be met and he would not be safe”, and that she therefore had to make a care order and an order placing the child for adoption.

The case of Alfie Evans, the 23-month old child who has been on ventilation in hospital after becoming seriously ill with a catastrophic and untreatable neurodegenerative condition, has been back to court on two more occasions. Firstly, Mr Justice Hayden, who made the original order authorising the NHS Trust to withdraw life-support from Alfie, endorsed an end-of-life care plan prepared by the Trust (details of the plan have not been made public). Secondly, the Court of Appeal refused to overrule a decision preventing his parents from taking Alfie to Italy for treatment. Mr Justice Hayden said had previously said that flying Alfie to a foreign hospital would be wrong and pointless. Alfie’s parents are now taking the matter back to the Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeal has rejected an appeal by a wife who was seeking to have her maintenance increased. Kim Waggott had been awarded maintenance from her ex-husband William at a rate required to meet her income needs, which the judge had assessed to be £175,000 per annum. She had argued that she should have received more, partly because the judge had not awarded her a share of the earning capacity her husband had accrued during the marriage. However, the Court of Appeal held that she was not entitled to a share of her husband’s earning capacity. Further, the Court of Appeal allowed a cross-appeal by Mr Waggott against the maintenance order, with the result that the maintenance will now end in three years’ time, rather than continue for the couple’s joint lives.

The latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for March 2018, have been published by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (‘Cafcass’), the organisation that represents children in family court cases. In that month the service received a total of 1,238 care applications. This figure represents a 3.5 per cent increase in comparison with March 2018 and is the second highest monthly total for a March on record. The highest March figure was in 2017 when there were 1,298 cases. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,599 new private law cases. This is a 5 per cent reduction compared with March last year but a 15 per cent increase compared with February 2018.

And finally, a 22 year-old university graduate is reported to be the first woman convicted of the offence controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate relationship, which was introduced in 2015. She had scalded her boyfriend with boiling water, stabbed him, kept food from him, told him what clothes he could wear, isolated him from friends and family, and took over his Facebook account. She pleaded guilty to the controlling or coercive behaviour offence, as well as wounding with intent and causing grievous bodily harm with intent. She was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison, and also made the subject of a restraining order preventing her from contacting her former boyfriend for an indefinite period.