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.”
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
The 2006 shared parenting reforms in Australia left a lot of mother’s unhappy with the continued involvement with the father in the children’s lives. Last year’s changes to the Family Law Act has resulted in an unprecedented level of domestic violence and abuse allegations being made now more than 50%. Reports of abuse and violence had, until that point, been in steady decline in the four years leading up to the reforms.
Introduction of Domestic Violence legislation
The number of divorcing couples entering pre-court mediation is down by a third because of cuts in legal aid for lawyers. It has been observed that the only route left to obtain legal aid for lawyers is to make allegations of violence or abuse.
Thousands of divorcing couples and their children are now heading straight to court.
Mediation is an alternative system designed to help families reach agreement over their property and children’s upbringing without going to court.
The number of couples inquiring about formal mediation has halved since the cuts came into force in April, with the number of couples entering mediation down by a third. The difference made up by self funding.
The numbers of people applying directly to courts has exploded, often without the help of a lawyer, for rulings on contentious and complex issues such as contact with their children.
However, legal aid funding is still available for mediation. Because the lawyers don’t get paid for it, they are not referring people to mediation. Perhaps a court inspired scheme to inform people about mediation is necessary.
The phone number for legal aid is 0845 345 4 345.