Legal Profession Putting Out Misleading News About Legal Aid for Mediation

Mediation is still available through legal aid

Despite the misleading news by the legal profession, legal aid is still available for mediation.

Misreporting by The Guardian, Misreporting by BBC, Misreporting by National Family Mediation,
Misleading article by law society gazette

Many couples going through a separation may be completely unaware that Legal Aid is in fact still available (depending upon their financial circumstances) for people who wish to take part in mediation.
Peter Flint, senior partner and head of the family department at law firm Lanyon Bowdler.
Mediation is an excellent way of resolving issues which arise once a relationship has broken down. It can be used to sort out arrangements for children, to assist parents in re-establishing communication with each other (for the benefit of the children), can resolve the financial issues arising out of the breakdown of the relationship, and so forth. Mediation is an alternative to having issues resolved by a Court, and at present it is a voluntary procedure involving the couple having a meeting or a series of meetings with a mediator whose job it is to work with the couple and assist them in resolving the various issues by agreement. Unlike Court proceedings, the decision making process lies not with the Judge but rather with the clients themselves.

Peter Flint, a highly experienced family mediator and solicitor with Shrewsbury law firm Lanyon Bowdler comments “A most unfortunate and possibly unforeseen consequence of the Government cuts in the availability of Legal Aid in family cases has been the dramatic reduction in estranged couples attempting to resolve their issues by agreement through the medium of mediation.

“Because of the significant reduction in mediation work, the last few months has seen a number of mediation services having to discontinue their businesses. These have included Mediation Works, a not for profit organisation operating in Shropshire and a number of other areas; and also the offices of National Family Mediation in Worcester and Hereford.”

Peter concludes “This may be due to the fact that family lawyers also have seen a reduction in their business as a result of the Legal Aid cuts and are therefore neglecting their duty to advise their clients of the mediation option for fear of losing the business. More likely is that people cannot afford to do so they are not consulting solicitors, but rather are attempting to deal with matters themselves via the Court process, when in fact Legal Aid is still available (depending upon their financial circumstances) for people who wish to take part in mediation.”

8 Ways to Protect Children During Divorce

1) Before you divorce try marriage Counselling. If there is any chance of saving the marriage then go for it. Children fare best inside a complete unbroken family.

2) Wait until the children are mature enough to cope with your divorce. Sometimes just plodding on for a few years with the marriage can protect the children. Older children cope better with divorce than younger ones.

3) Try to come to agreement with your spouse on what should happen in the divorce. This includes finances, property, where you should live and when the children visit the other parent. This is an ongoing process and will mean having an ongoing dialogue with your ex. If ever the discussion starts to get heated break it off and come back to it another day.

4) Try mediation as an amicable or haggling alternative to family court. Remember Family court is a very expensive way to settle disputes about family and finances. Even if you cannot agree on everything in mediation it is well worth finding out on what you do agree on and only taking what you don’t agree on to court. It is far better to agree to something that you slightly don’t like than trying to get everything that you want through the court. If you do go to court do your utmost best not to use it as a forum to take out revenge on your ex.

5) Don’t involve the children in the divorce. During the separation, focus your efforts on enjoying your time with the children and put out of mind what happens in the other household when the children are not with you. It is natural to worry about what is happening to the children when not in your care. But you must put aside your concerns especially in the weeks and months straight after separation. It will take a few months for you, your ex and the children to settle down in the new reality. A “matter of fact” and “getting on with it” attitude can help a  lot during this time. As angry as you may be with your ex, those feelings shouldn’t be shared with the children directly or indirectly. These types of mixed love hate feelings are psychologically damaging to children.

6) Try therapy. Having a quiet, discreet person to offload your anger to could help you through this most difficult time.

7) Take care of yourself. Pamper yourself. Keep pushing yourself to meet up with friends. Eat properly. Keep an eye on any addiction that may creep in. Take a mini break. Visit relatives. Do something that takes your mind off the divorce.

8) Talk to the children positively. Children often blame themselves for the divorce. Keep emphasising that it is not their fault. Also avoid blaming your ex in front of the children. Talk positively about your ex in front of the children. This is the best way. Not the easiest way but the best way. Don’t argue in front of the children this is very damaging. Do not try to test the children’s loyalty to you against your ex. This is very damaging also. Forcing them to choose between the two parents is very damaging to them. Your children do not want to be forced to chose.

 

The Children and Family Relationships Bill 2013 is set to Modernise Irish Family Law.

With the force of European Court of Human Rights bearing down on Irish Law, A new bill has been drawn up that will recognise previously excluded categories of people, making them visible and equal under the law. Also the Convention on the rights of the child is forcing changes to children’s rights in adoption. The new bill also brings in new legislation that cover artificial insemination and surrogacy.

For Minister for Justice and former family law practitioner Alan Shatter, is understood to have drafted most of the legislation single-handedly over the summer months.

 

Unmarried parents, same-sex couples and cohabitants have often felt either invisible or discriminated against in the eyes of the law.

The current law relating to guardianship, custody and access to children dates back to the 1960s, for example.

The Civil Partnership Act, which came into effect on January 1st, 2011, allows couples to begin dissolution proceedings if they have lived apart for two out of the previous three years. It also recognises civil partnerships in 27 other jurisdictions, including the UK.

The new laws will provide a long-anticipated legal basis for surrogacy and assisted human reproduction in Ireland, allowing intended parents to be legally recognised as parents, even if they have no genetic link to the child. New laws to allow adoption by same-sex couples

Our laws on paternity and children born outside marriages were drawn up in the mid-1980s.

As for children born as a result of assisted human reproduction or surrogacy? Well, there are no specific laws whatsoever.

The new Children and Family Relationships Bill 2013 aimed to change this by bringing a diverse range of family types in from the cold.

For Minister for Justice and former family law practitioner Alan Shatter, this is territory he is intimately familiar with.

In fact, he is understood to have drafted most of the legislation single-handedly over the summer months.

The new Bill will provide for what he describes as “contemporary legal architecture” on guardianship, custody, access and the upbringing of children in diverse family forms.

This includes married families, families that rely on the care of children by members of the extended family, families based on cohabiting couples and civil partnerships.

Children’s rights
The legislation will also reflect the new enhanced position of children’s rights in the Constitution – following last year’s referendum.

Some of the biggest gaps in family law relate to guardianship and put many families in a difficult legal position.

For example, many Irish domestic adoptions today are so-called step-parent adoptions. This is where a mother – who had a child outside marriage – is now married to a man who is not the father of the child, and wants her husband to have a legal link with her child.

As a result of a gap in the law, mothers have to go through the artificial procedure of adopting their own child.

The new Bill will change this by facilitating husbands to become joint guardians of children in such relationships – where it is in the best interests of the child – without going through the adoption process. In addition, it will allow for same-sex civil partners or those cohabiting with the biological or adoptive parent to apply for guardianship of a child, subject to certain conditions.

Access provisions will also be simplified. It will remove the two-stage process for a person other than a parent – such as a grandparent or former step-parent – who is seeking access to a child.

Adoption by same-sex couples will also be legislated for, either in this proposed law or in a related piece of legislation.

The current law relating to adoption provides for the adoption of children by married couples, by single persons (irrespective of their sexual orientation), but not by cohabiting couples or by civil partners.

As Shatter has observed, a law which permits the adoption of a child by an individual who is gay but excludes the adoption of a child by a same-sex couple makes little sense and can properly be regarded as discriminatory.

In all of these proceedings, the voice of the child will remain central. For example, a child over the age of 12 must be consulted in relation to applications for guardianship, custody and access orders, and may be entitled to refuse her or his consent.

The proposed laws in the area of assisted human reproduction will also give legal certainty to thousands of families who have had children using donor eggs or sperm. This is an area that has been riven with uncertainty. A recent High Court ruling recently effectively concluded that parentage was based on genetics: so if a mother gives birth to a child using a donor egg, the biological mother would be the donor, not the birth mother.

The new laws will seek to clarify this by stating that in cases of where donor material is used, the parents are the birth mother and her consenting spouse or partner.

In the area of surrogacy, the law will say parentage may be assigned by the court on the basis of genetic connection to one of the intending parents and the spouse or partner of that person.

The proposed laws may not be to everyone’s liking. And they may not go far enough for others. But few are likely to disagree they are an attempt to catch up with the reality that is the changing face of the Irish family.

Birth Control Deception is Rape, but only if you are a man.

A Nova Scotia man in an appeal court was convicted of sexual assault for putting pin holes in condoms before having sex with his girlfriend. She became pregnant as a result. In the lower court he was acquitted of assault, but on appeal he was found guilty. Now the case is being re-examined in the Supreme Court of Canada.

 

At the Appeals Court, defense lawyer Luke Craggs told the court that if Hutchinson’s conviction was allowed to stand it could set a precedent to encourage litigation against anyone dishonest about their use of birth control and could “create undesirable results,” such as men refusing to pay child support because they had no intention of creating children and their sexual partners dishonestly telling them they were on birth control getting pregnant.

 

“I’m sure if you venture down to Supreme Court family division, there are all sorts of sour men down there who feel they shouldn’t be paying child support because they didn’t want the child in the first place,” Craggs said at the time. “That does seem to be one result that could flow from this.”

 

Crown prosecutor Jim Gumpert, after questioning by the appeal court judges, reportedly conceded that he believed a woman could also be charged with sexual assault for lying to her partner about taking the birth control pill.

 

“There are very unusual social policy issues and legal issues in this case,” Gumpert acknowledged.

 

Earlier this year, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal upheld the sexual assault conviction in a 4-1 split decision. The one dissenting vote allowed Hutchinson to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

 

The Supreme Court decision in the Hutchinson case could have broader implications for issues of sexual consent and risk of bodily harm.

Obvious cases involve not revealing HIV infection when having sex.

Under previous law, HIV-positive people who did not tell partners they had the virus could be charged with aggravated sexual assault, for which the maximum penalty is life in jail.

 

The Supreme Court is expected to reserve its decision in the Hutchinson case.

Read more here

Religion Clashes with Medicine in Right to Life Case

In the Court of Protection, cases involving decisions about people who are mentally incapacitated in some way, it was ruled that a 72 year old man who had had severe brain damage from a stroke should be allowed to die. The man and his family, were Muslim and as part of their religion, suffering would bring a person closer to God. The family wished for the man to be resuscitated so that he could endure this suffering.

This precedent has wider implications in other cases where religion and medical practices clash.

After the ruling, the family’s solicitor, Zak Golombeck from law firm Pannone, said it would have “major repercussions for people of faith throughout the country”.

“The judge accepted the deeply held religious beliefs of VT and his family, but held that in spite of these beliefs the opinions of the clinicians regarding VT’s best interests should take precedence.

“It is for this reason we are carefully considering the judgment and will be advising our client as to any potential appeal.”

Read more here

Justice Munby Plans to Open up England and Wales Secret Courts

One of England’s most senior judges has pledged to expose family courts to public scrutiny to avoid miscarriages of justice and restore public confidence. Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division of the High Court, said parents of children taken into care must no longer be gagged by the courts and journalists should be allowed to report on proceedings.He said that in the absence of the death penalty, removing a child from their parents is one of the most “drastic” actions a judge can take consequences that can last a lifetime.

Under a series of reforms, Sir James Munby plans to make judgments available to the public and to open up the courts to reporters. Journalists could be given greater access to court documents.

He said: “We must be open to the world – much more open than at present – in what we do both in the family courts and the Courts of Protection.”

The next step would be to get these directions implemented.

Further things to consider is democratic selection of Appeal court and High Court Judges and in the Social Services and CAFCASS. Now, that would really change things.

 

Read More

 

Judge Rules Mothers Must Pressurise Children to go to Access

THE Family Court has warned separated parents that they are required to hand over children for access visits, whether the children want to go or not.

It is often the case that reluctant children once they go to the father after an initial miserable period actually settle down and enjoy the time they spend with their father.

The causes for the initial reluctance are varied, but a common factor is the mother’s negative body language and speech intonation that creates a negative image of the father in the children’s mind.

But when the children actually visit the father that negative image is wiped clean and replaced by a loving and caring parent that spends fun time with his children.

 

Article here

8 Things Children Want Most in Mediation

According to Berni Davis from Berkshire Mediation Service

1. Please don’t argue in front of us

2. We don’t like it when you criticise or bad mouth each other.

3. It makes us feel good when you get on.

4. We don’t have to worry so much if you talk together about things that affect us.

5. We need both of you and we like doing everyday things with each of you as well as

6. Ask us what we want and listen to what we have to say.

7. We know you want to spend time with us but remember that we have a social life

8. Separation affects us children differently, mostly we feel either sad or angry about the things that make us feel special too and sometimes we want to spend time with our friends as well not living together anymore but we can cope and get on with our lives if you can too.

read more here

Court Refusing to Recognise Irish Couple’s Adoption of Mexican Girl

An Irish couple have asked the High Court to overturn the Adoption Authority of Ireland’s refusal to recognise their adoption of a young Mexican girl.

The court is refusing on a legal technicality to recognise the adoption though all parties agree the child’s wellbeing would be guaranteed by recognising the adoption. 18 other adoptions are in the same boat.

The couple went through an onerous process during 2010 to secure the adoption, including having to stay in Mexico for about six months until the adoption was finalised, he said.

When they returned to Ireland with the child in March 2011, they were told the adoption authority could not recognise the adoption because it did not meet requirements of the Hague Convention.

Article here

CAFCASS to be controlled by ministry of justice on April 2014

The welfare of children and families will be brought to the heart of the court system when a key safeguarding organisation moves to the Ministry of Justice, Family Justice Minister Lord McNally has announced.

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) will transfer to the Ministry of Justice in April 2014.

Cafcass looks after the interests of children involved in family court cases and helps over 145,000 children and young people who are involved in divorce or separation and care or adoption cases every year. Cafcass is the voice of the children in family courts and helps ensure that children’s welfare is put first during proceedings. It is currently sponsored by the Department for Education.

Family Justice Minister Lord McNally said: ‘I am determined to improve the family justice system so that it offers the best possible service for those families – and particularly those children – that come into contact with it.

‘The work Cafcass does in supporting vulnerable children and ensuring their voice is heard in court proceedings is essential. Bringing Cafcass into the Ministry of Justice will be of great benefit to the family justice system.

The transfer follows a recommendation in the Family Justice Review.
Chief Executive of Cafcass Anthony Douglas CBE said: ‘Our move to the MOJ will help to accelerate the pace of family justice reform, as all court-based agencies will be in the same team. It will be a chance for us to be the voice of vulnerable children inside MOJ and will help to promote better justice for these children.

‘Cafcass will make maximum use of this opportunity to bring about the vision set out in the Family Justice Review – to develop a high quality service to all children and families using the family courts, making best use of the resources we have in the system overall.’

Ministry of justice article here