Cutting The Jargon

Using legal terms is often unavoidable when working on a case. To make the processes involved more understandable for our clients, we have compiled a ‘cutting the jargon’ glossary. If there is anything you are still unsure of, please just ask.

Legal Terms

Using legal terms is often unavoidable when working on a case. To make the processes involved more understandable for our clients, we have compiled a ‘cutting the jargon’ glossary. If there is anything you are still unsure of, please just ask.

A Section 28 (1A)
Bar This refers to spousal maintenance limited for a certain period of time, during which time the recipient is prevented from applying for an extension of that order.

Acknowledgment of Service
A form that confirms the receipt of the Divorce Petition, which is submitted to the Court.

Answer
This refers to the response to a Divorce Petition when the divorce is defended by the recipient.

Applicant
This refers to the person making the initial application to the Court for an Order.

CAFCASS
Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.

Care Order
An order made in care proceedings placing a child in the care of a Local Authority and giving it parental responsibility which it will share with the child’s parents.

Care Proceedings
Care proceedings are when Children’s Services asks the court to look at your child’s situation. They decide if your child needs a Court order to keep them safe. Your child’s social worker will do this if they think that your child cannot remain safely at home.

Child Arrangements Order
This refers to an order stating with whom a child is to live, spend time, or otherwise have contact; and when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.

Child of the Family
The biological child of both parties or a child who has been treated by both as their child.

Child of the Marriage
The biological or adopted child of both parties.

CSA/Child Maintenance Service
A Government organisation that ensure payment of Child Support.

Children’s Guardian
An officer of CAFCASS (see above) appointed by the court to represent children in care proceedings.

Clean Break
The court order which completely ends any financial obligations towards the former spouse.

Collaborative Law
A family law process enabling couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work with their lawyers and, on occasion, other family professionals. The aim is to avoid the uncertain outcome of Court and to achieve a settlement that best meets the specific needs of both parties and their children without the underlying threat of contested litigation.

Conciliation Appointment
A meeting between the parents of a child, the Judge and the CAFCASS representative to discuss solutions for the child. All parties must reach an agreement, or the Judge will determine the future arrangements

Consent Order
An order of the Court that sets out an agreement between the parties.

Co-Respondent
This refers to the person outside the marriage who has committed adultery with the Respondent. It is not necessary to name this person in the Divorce Petition.

Costs
The legal expenses of a case.

Decree Absolute
The final Divorce Decree, confirming the complete dissolution of the marriage, leaving both parties free to remarry.

Decree Nisi
The first Divorce Decree where one person (the Petitioner) confirms that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Directions
An order from the Court that confirms the actions that you must take before the next stage in the hearing.

District Judge
A full time Judge who will normally hear cases regarding private disputes between individuals such as finances following a diovrce, private children disputes, injunction applications and other civil applications.

Family Court
The court which deals with all family cases. Cases may be heard by Circuit Judges, District Judges or Magistrates.

Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment (FDR)
The second Court hearing in an application for a financial order where the Judge considers the financial offers made to date and suggests the likely outcome of the case as a result of those offers. If an agreement is not reached at that hearing.

Financial Order
The name given to financial orders made within divorce proceedings as part of the financial settlement.

First Appointment
The first Court hearing before the FDR, in which the judge determines what financial documents both parties must produce and the time scale in which they have to do so.

Form E
A Form used in financial proceedings to provide full and frank financial disclosure. Often also completed on a voluntary basis to aide in negotiations to try and agree a settlement without the need for contested proceedings.

Freezing Order
A Court Order which prevents a party from moving or disposing of their assets (including assets abroad) until further notice.

High Court
The highest tier of Court that deals with family law cases in the first instance. Hearings take place in front of a very experienced Judge. Appeals are to the Supreme Court.

Injunction
An Order from the Courts which highlights an action that is required or forbidden from one or both parties.

Interim Order
An Order put in place before a final Order is established.

Interim Maintenance/Maintenance Pending Suit
Interim payments given to a former spouse during the court proceedings, until the final order is determined.

Issuing
The process of stamping the initial document and paying the fee, when a formal application for an Order is presented at Court, signifying the start of proceedings.

Joint Tenancy
The definition of joint ownership of land or property where both parties maintain an indistinct share. In the event of death of one tenant, the entire property passes to the survivor, overriding any Wills that are in place.

Legal Aid
This provides help with payment of legal costs from the Government in a limited number of family cases usually where a Local Authority is involved in proceedings concerning children. It is usually Means tested except where the Local Authority brings care proceedings when it is free for parents or others with parental responsibility for the child. It is only available in very limited circumstances in other family cases.

Lump Sum Order
An Order in which the Court orders a payment of a lump sum to the other party, within a time frame. Interest is sometimes due on late payments.

Maintenance
Regular payments given to an ex-partner.

Matrimonial Proceedings
An application for a divorce, decree of nullity, dissolution decree or decree of judicial separation.

Mediation
A process in which an independent third party will assist the couple in negotiating an agreement relating to the children or finances.

MIAM
This is short for Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. It is a short meeting conducted by a trained mediator who will assess whether mediation is appropriate in the circumstances. It is a requirement for a person to attend a MIAM before making particular types of applications to the Court.

Non-Resident Parent
The parent who the child does not live with but may spend significant time with.

Parental Responsibility
The rights to make both major and day to day decisions in respect of a child.

Pension Sharing
An order setting out specific percentages for a pension to be divided between two spouses.

Pension Attachment (formerly known as Earmarking)
An order for a percentage of one spouse’s pension benefits to be paid to the other spouse. Rarely used now as Pension Sharing is preferred.

Periodical Payments
Another name for Maintenance payments.

Petition
A form to apply for divorce, nullity, dissolution or judicial separation.

Petitioner
The person initially starting the proceedings for divorce, nullity, dissolution or judicial separation.

Pre-Nuptial Agreement
An agreement put in place and signed by both parties, in the unforeseen event of a marriage breakdown, highlighting their intended financial consequences should divorce occur.

Prohibited Steps Order
A Court Order put in place to prevent any named person from taking a specific action, such as removing a child from the country without getting the court’s permission.

Private Law
The law that deals with private family disputes where the Local Authority is not involved.

Public Law
The law that deals with family disputes concerning children where the local authority is involved.

Public Law Outline [PLO] Meeting
When social workers are concerned about the welfare of a child, they may think about taking the case to court, so that they can ask the court to make orders to protect the child. In most cases, the Public Law Outline requires the Social Services department to arrange a meeting with the parent(s) to see if it is possible to reach agreement about what needs to happen to protect the child from harm so that court proceedings can be avoided.

Property Adjustment
A Court Order transferring one party’s financial share of a property to the other.

Resident Parent
The parent with whom the child lives.

Respondent
The person who receives the Petition or Application.

Section 25 Factors
The issues which the Judge takes into consideration when making an order dealing with the matrimonial finances.

Separation Agreement
An agreement detailing specific terms on which the parties agree to separate. The court is not bound by such agreements. However, will take them into consideration when making a final Order.

Specific Issue Order
A Court Order resulting from a problem that has arisen regarding any aspect of parental responsibility, for example, changing the child’s school.

Spouse
A wife or husband.

Supervision Order
This is an order made by the court in public law children proceedings. It does not give the Local Authority parental responsibility but provides that Social Services should advise, assist and befriend a child. The order lasts for 12 months but can extend on application to the Court for a maximum period of 3 years.

Tenancy in Common
The term for when the parties have separate shares in a property. Unlike joint tenancy, in the event of the death of one tenant, their share will not pass on to the survivor but instead will form part of their estate; it is imperative to have an up-to-date Will.

Term Maintenance
Maintenance payments which are limited for a fixed period.

Threshold Criteria
The test which must be satisfied before the Court that can make a care or supervision order in favour of the local authority. The Local Authority has to prove that: the child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm and that this is because of the care being given or likely to be given by the parent falling below a reasonable standard, or that the child is beyond parental control.

Without Notice Application
A Court application that enables only one party the opportunity to present their case to the court.

Without Prejudice
Certain correspondence, for example, an offer, that you cannot mention in evidence.

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Top 10 Tips for Family Law Clients

Here are our top 10 Tips to reduce stress and get the best outcome during your family law issue.

1. Start as you mean to go on

Relationship breakdowns can be stressful for all. You should take legal advice as early on as possible so that you can focus on resolving issues. It is better for all to be as calm and focused as possible rather than let resentment guide you. If you start off this way then hopefully this can continue throughout your case to help achieve a swift and successful resolution.

2. Be open and honest

In all your dealings, you should be open and honest. Hiding information only results in increased costs and animosity as well as lengthier disputes. Everything always comes out in the end and depending on your situation you could find yourself not just worse off but having to pay the costs of your ex-partner.

3. Be respectful of all involved

It can be difficult to be respectful towards someone who has hurt you. However, if you are rude or difficult then this will not make your ex-partner inclined to negotiate. Seeking revenge can often be self- destructive. If there are children involved you will have to deal with your ex-partner in the future and a hostile relationship will make co-parenting very difficult.

4. Consider long term and short term

Some of your long and short-term goals may be the same but often what you need now will not help you in the future. Often people are not concerned with their pensions now but when they retire it is most people’s only source of income. Equally what you arrange for the children now will not likely affect you when they are adults. By considering both points of view it can help you walk away with a result that works both now and in the future.

5. Put the children first

In any case where there are children involved then their welfare should be the first thing to consider when you are making decisions. Children are often those most affected by family breakdowns and will remember their experience for the rest of their lives. The Court considers the children’s welfare to be vital in any case where they are involved and so should you.

6. Pick your battles

Resolving issues whether big or small is the only way to reach a settlement. When you fail to resolve the issues you will likely end up in expensive, stressful and costly contested Court proceedings. Is it worth arguing over the toaster when you are also trying to negotiate on what share of your Husband’s pension you will have? Equally, consider if it is worth arguing over the fact that on one occasion the children were handed over 5 minutes late if you are trying to secure overnight contact. Consider where it is best to exert your energy and spend your legal costs.

7. Look forward not back

Look towards when your case will be over and you can move on. If you spend your case focussed on the actions of the past and attempting to allocate blame for the relationship breakdown then this will hamper your ability to negotiate successfully. Calculating the exact number of minutes of contact you are ‘owed’ from the last two years or producing bank statements of who has bought what share of the groceries will not help your case. Look at what outcome you want and work towards that rather than trying to punish your ex-partner for the past.

8. Consider settlements

If an offer to settle is received you should consider this carefully. Often offers made will not be acceptable, at least initially. Focus on the positive and consider your options carefully. Blunt rejection of offers to settle can often inflame matters however if you accept an offer without fully considering it then you may find yourself worse off. Equally, you should not delay when considering offers as most have a time limit attached.

9. Consider all the options

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Often the best thing is not running off to Court. We will always help you to consider your options, sometimes the best option can be to wait and see how things evolve. Equally sometimes you need to take action quickly. Not everything requires a shirty letter or a Court application. Considering all the options can help you make calm decisions in the best interests of you and your family.

10. Don’t assume that what works for someone else will work for you

Each case is different. Relationships break down for different reasons and everyone has different finances. What is appropriate for a family with children is not the same for a couple without. Equally one parent staying at home with the children whilst the other works will impact a case differently than if both parents work full time. Whilst you may know others who have been through a similar experience remember that what worked for them will not necessarily work for you.

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Twice as many children looking to be adopted as families willing to adopt

The number of children waiting for adoptive homes in the UK outnumbers prospective adopters by more than 2:1, according to new figures. Marking the start of National Adoption Week (14th-20th October), this data was released by the Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board to highlight the urgent need for more families who are willing to adopt to come forward.

Authorities have concluded that 4,140 children across England should be adopted, however, there are only around 1,700 families approved to adopt and waiting to be matched with children. Looking at nine regions of England at the end of December 2018, there were 2,760 children where a placement order had been made for adoption, but they have not yet been placed.

According to the data, the groups most likely to struggle in finding adoptive parents are children from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, children with disabilities, older children, and sibling groups:

  • more than half are waiting to be adopted with siblings (57 per cent);
  • more than a quarter are over the age of five (28 per cent);
  • one in five are from a BAME background (20 per cent); and
  • four per cent have a disability.

Research from last year found that almost a third of all children waiting to be adopted in England were from a BAME background. Chief Executive of the adoption agency PACT, Jan Fishwick, explained:

“It’s a sad reality that some children have fewer options when it comes to finding adopters for them. These children are often referred to as ‘hard to place’ or those that ‘wait the longest’ of these, BAME children and Black boys, in particular, are a group that are often overlooked.”

BAME adopters twice as likely as white families to adopt

Fostering and adoption charity, Home for Good, found BAME adults are more than twice as likely to consider adoption than white adults (21 per cent versus 10 per cent). Interviewing more than 8,000 UK adults, the research discovered half (50 per cent) of white adults would not consider or explore adoption, while only 27 per cent of BAME adults would rule adoption out as an option. This falls even further to just one in five (20 per cent) Black adults who would not consider adoption.

Despite these results, there is still a significant shortage of BAME adopters. The charity’s research found BAME adults were more likely than white adults to worry about issues surrounding adoption, including:

  • What family and friends might think;
  • The government and authorities looking into their history;
  • How they would be treated by social workers;
  • Financial implications and space at home; and,
  • Parenting challenges that adopted children might pose.

Who can adopt?

According to Adoption UK’s Adoption Barometer 2019, four out of five adopters would recommend adoption. Despite this, there are around 2.5 children waiting for every approved adoptive home. With more than twice as many children waiting to be adopted as there are families willing to adopt, there is a clear focus on potential adopters in this year’s National Adoption Week for England, with a social tagline of #YouCanAdopt.

In England and Wales, anyone over the age of 21 years old can adopt a child. While you do not have to be a British citizen, you (or your partner) must have either:

  • A fixed and permanent home in the UK, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man; or,
  • Lived in the UK for at least one year before you begin the application process.

The adopter does not need to married or in a relationship, and sexual preference does not get taken into account. In 2018, single parents applying for adoption reached a record high at 962; an increase from 904 in 2017 and 875 in 2012. According to the latest family court statistics, adoption orders by same-sex couples accounted for 12 per cent of all adoption in England and Wales during 2018/19. In the year to end March 2018, 400 children were adopted by single adopters, and 460 were adopted by couples of the same-sex.

People who already have their own children can also adopt and are allowed to adopt more than one child at a time.

The only automatic exclusion from adoption in England is if you, or a member of your household, have a criminal conviction, caution for offences against children, or for serious sexual crimes.

One of the most crucial factors a potential adopter must ask themselves is whether they can be patient and flexible with a child, empathise with them, and make them feel safe and loved.

Contact our Adoption & Child Law Solicitors

If you are considering adoption, it is always recommended you speak with a professional child lawyer to get expert legal advice about the adoption process in England. Do not delay and get in touch with a member of our qualified team today by calling 01256 595482 or completing the online enquiry form.

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‘Unsustainable’ number of teens in care in England

Children’s Commissioner for England, Anna Longfield, has confirmed the care system is struggling to cope with the growing number of teenagers. The number of children in care aged 13 and over has risen 21 per cent since 2012/13; this compares with those children five years old or under which has dropped 15 per cent in the same period.

During 2017/18, one in four children in care were aged 16 or over, and two in five were between the ages of 10 and 15. According to the statistics, older children are six times more likely than those under 13 to be living in residential or secure children’s homes, with nearly half living in privately-run accommodation.

The Children’s Commissioner’s 2019 Stability Index found that teenagers in care are a lot more vulnerable than younger children. Compared with those who are 13 years old and under, teenagers in care are:

  • Seven times more likely to have gone missing from home;
  • Six times more likely to have experienced child sexual exploitation;
  • Five times more likely to have been involved in gangs; and,
  • Four times more likely to have been misusing drugs.

Additionally, older children in care are more likely to have vulnerabilities that require specialist or intensive support. Teenagers are 10 times more likely than younger children to have been attending a pupil referral unit, and 50 per cent more likely to have a statement of special education needs or an Education, Health and Care Plan.

Anne Longfield commented:

“The new norm is shifting so that fewer babies and very young children are being taken off parents who cannot cope. Instead, it is teenagers who are being taken into care because they are experiencing issues… and parents [are] unable to protect them.”

More than half of children in care have moved home at least once in 3 years

The report, which provides an annual measure of the stability of children’s lives in care in England, confirmed 52 per cent of children moved home at least once in three years; three in 10 moved at least twice, and one in 10 children in care moved four or more times.

The proportion of children experiencing several placement moves ranged from four per cent to 20 per cent across local authorities, while the proportion of children in care experiencing a mid-year school move ranged from four per cent to 22 per cent. According to the latest report, there has been a slight reduction in the proportion of children who have had a change of school during the academic year; from 13 per cent in 2016/17 to 11 per cent the following year.

During 2017/18, around one in 20 (3,200 children) experienced a home move, a school move as well as a change in their social worker. A further 13,840 children in care (roughly one in five) experienced two of these changes. From 2016/17 to 2017/18, there were 7,100 children who experienced all of these changes; calculating at around one in seven of those who were in care.

There were nearly 500 children who experienced multiple placement changes, a mid-year school move and numerous changes in their social worker during the 2017/18 period, and close to 4,500 children who experienced two of these changes.

Less than three in 10 children in care experienced no change of home, no school move and no change of social worker through the year, while only one in six did not experience any of these changes in a two-year period.

Change in social worker

Released on the 1 August 2019, this year’s Stability Index found more than 45,000 children in care (or roughly three in five) had experienced at least one change of social worker in the year, while more than 20,000 children in care experienced two or more changes. In the space of two years, more than half of children (55 per cent) experienced two or more changes of social worker, while 32 per cent experienced three or more.

The proportion of children experiencing several changes of social worker ranges from zero to 51 per cent. Children in care are more likely to experience multiple social worker changes in any one year in those local authorities that have:

  • Higher rates of agency staff;
  • Higher rates of social worker turnover; and,
  • Higher social worker vacancy rates.

Anne Longfield concluded on the findings:

“There are an increasing number of teenage children in the care system and too many of them are ‘pin-balling’ around the system. In one local authority, 20% of the entire children’s services budget is being spent on just ten children. This is completely unsustainable.”

Contact our Child & Family Lawyers

Child Law Partnership represent children in care and our qualified child law solicitors will work hard to ensure the child’s welfare is at the forefront of everything we do. Do not delay and contact us today by calling 01256 595294 or completing the online enquiry form.

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Concern families could be left unprotected as cohabiting couples continue to rise

According to official figures by the ONS, the number of Brits cohabiting has increased 25.8 per cent in the last decade; the fastest growing family type across the UK.

Of the 19.1 million families in 2018, married and civil partner couple families represented two-thirds (67.1 per cent) of all family types; a drop from 69.1 per cent recorded a decade ago.

3.4 million (or 17.9 per cent) of all families were reported as cohabiting last year; a significant rise from the 2.7 million cohabiting couple families (or 15 per cent) in 2008. This was closely followed by 2.9 million lone-parent families (15 per cent of all UK families).

Sophie Sanders, spokeswoman for the ONS, explained:

“While married couple families remain the most common, cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type as people increasingly choose to live together before, or without, getting married.”

Same-sex couple families more than doubled since 2008

Following the introduction of same-sex marriages in March 2014, there has also been a rapid growth in same-sex marriage couple families. The number of same-sex couple families has increased substantially in recent years, with an increase of 53.2 per cent (from 152,000 to 232,000) in ten years. The most common same-sex couple family are also cohabiting, however, the proportion of these family types have declined from 59.6 per cent in 2008 to 50.4 per cent in 2018.

1.5 million cohabiting couples without a will in the UK

Despite many cohabiting couples believing they can divide assets in the same manner as those who are married or in a civil partnership, ‘common law marriage’ is a myth. With an increasing number of cohabiting families forming across Britain, Helen Morrissey, Corporate PR specialist at Royal London, raised concerns that many families could be left financially insecure should their relationship end:

“The number of people choosing to cohabit is outstripping that of those choosing to marry. What many of these couples don’t know is that while they will live together and often raise families together like their married counterparts, they don’t have the same rights.”

Recent statistics from Royal London revealed that 5.4 million UK adults did not have a will in 2018 (accounting for 54 per cent of the population). This means that around 1.5 million cohabiting couples were left unprotected, with no legal right or entitlement to their partner’s estate, if one of them passed away last year.

Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, the surviving person can make a claim for reasonable financial provision from the estate. It should be noted there is only six months from the date that the grant of administration is issued to bring a claim against the estate.

Professional Legal Advice on Cohabitation Agreements in Portsmouth & Salisbury

Currently, the Cohabitation Rights Bill – which would provide certain protections to cohabiting couples – is in the early stages of passing through Parliament. However, while cohabiting couples are still not granted with automatic legal rights, couples can minimise financial risk by either creating a will or cohabitation agreement. Our solicitors at Child Law Partnership can assist with creating a legally binding cohabitation agreement – similar to a pre-nuptial agreement for those who are not married – to deal with potential issues that can arise from separating, such as property and assets.

Contact our Cohabitation & Family Lawyers

If you are in a cohabiting couple, is imperative that you know your rights should the relationship breakdown. At Child Law Partnership, our family lawyers are experts who can provide you with highly qualified legal advice to ensure you are protected no matter what happens in the future. Contact our dedicated team today by completing the online enquiry form.

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Surrogacy law consultation asks whether parents should get automatic parental rights

The Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission have called for ‘archaic’ surrogacy laws to be updated to better support the surrogate and intended parents while prioritising the child in question.

The proposals include allowing intended parents to acquire legal responsibility for a surrogate child when the child is born, rather than applying through the courts. Other proposals included launching a national register that allows children born through surrogacy to access information about their genetic origins.

What are the current laws surrounding surrogacy?

Under current legislation, a new parent must apply for a parental order or adoption to become the legal parent of a child born via surrogacy. In order to do so, an intended parent must be genetically related (either as the egg or sperm donor) to the child.

The parental order must be made within the first six months of the child’s birth; however, the Law Commission has argued that it ‘doesn’t reflect the reality of the child’s family life’ as the process itself can take months to complete.

Chair of the Law Commission, Sir Nicholas Green, commented:

“More and more people are turning to surrogacy to have a child and start their family. We therefore need to make sure that the process is meeting the needs of all those involved.

“We think our proposals will create a system that works for the surrogates, the parents and, most importantly, the child.”

With the number of children born via surrogacy 10 times higher than it was a decade ago, the consultation – Building families through surrogacy: a new law – asks the public how surrogacy laws could be improved to reflect current family circumstances and support everyone involved in the surrogacy process.

Questions surrounding the kinds of payments that intended parents should be permitted to make to the surrogate will also be reviewed in the consultation.

The consultation, which closes on the 27th September 2019, can be accessed here.

Contact our Surrogacy Solicitors

Whether you are an intended parent or a surrogate, it is important to gain legal advice to ensure you fully understand the surrogacy process before entering into an agreement. Get in touch with Child Law Partnership Child & Family Lawyers today via the online enquiry form.

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Rising number of parents adopt children who had a ‘tough start’

New research from Adoption UK questioned 3,500 people as to what motivated them to adopt. Although more than half of parents (58 per cent) adopted a child due to fertility issues, for 42 per cent of parents, infertility was not the primary factor.

The charity’s experts discovered that an increasing number of parents were motivated to adopt “a child who has had a tough start”. The data found that around three-quarters of all children adopted from care in the UK were removed from their birth parents due to abuse or neglect.

Director of public affairs at Adoption UK, Alison Woodhead, found that parents’ willingness to take on a child with a traumatic past is taken “far more seriously than their age, marital status or sexual preference”.

According to other statistics, nearly a quarter of parents (24 per cent) identified that “adoption was my first choice for starting a family”, while 17 per cent said their motivating factor was that they had a connection to adoption in their family.

While it a dated misconception that the only reason behind adoption is infertility, the stereotypical family unit of a ‘middle-age, middle-class, married couple’ has also been diversifying. Recent figures have found that single-parent adoptions reached a record high in the UK last year at 962; increasing from 904 in 2017 and 876 in 2012.

Ms Woodhead, who became a single-parent adopter back in 2011, concluded:

“When I adopted it was still not that common for or people to talk about a single adoption like it was a completely normal thing to do, and now it’s changed radically – there’s no barrier.”

Contact our Adoption Lawyers Guildford, Reading & Salisbury

If you are considering adoption, or wish to better understand the adoption process in England, it is imperative you speak with a specialist family law solicitor. Contact our qualified team today by completing the online enquiry form.

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Expert panel to review child protection in domestic abuse cases

Ministers have announced a panel of experts will be providing recommendations on how the family courts can better protect children and parents in cases of domestic abuse and other serious offences. The panel will consist of senior members of the judiciary, leading academics as well as charities.

A public call for evidence will also be seeking views from those who have been directly involved in similar situations to share their experiences.

The three-month project follows on from concerned responses about how the family courts deal with potential harm to children and victims. Ministers now want to review how existing safeguards in the court process are working in practice and how best to strengthen them.

Measures have already been taken to improve the current system. The draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which was published at the beginning of this year, bans abusers from cross-examining victims in family courts. In February 2019, £900,000 was awarded to organisations that provide emotional and practical support to domestic abuse victims throughout their time in the family court. Additionally, £8 million of funding was announced to support children who are affected by domestic abuse.

The Government has confirmed the review will focus on:

  • How the courts operate Practice Direction 12J (when domestic abuse is a factor in child arrangement cases)
  • Reviewing the courts’ use of ‘barring orders’ which prevent further applications being made without leave of the court under the Children Act 1989
  • Gathering data on the impact of the child and victim where child contact is sought by someone alleged to have, or has, committed domestic abuse or relevant offences
  • How the family courts handle serious crimes (such as rape and child abuse) to ensure protections are in place for victims and their children

Paul Maynard, Justice Minister, concluded:

“Some of the most vulnerable in our society come before the family courts, and I am absolutely determined that we offer them every protection.

“The review will help us better understand victims’ experiences of the system, and make sure the family court is never used to coerce or re-traumatise those who have been abused.”

Contact our Child Law Solicitors Guilford, Portsmouth & Reading

At Child Law Partnership, the welfare of the child is always paramount, and we will place your children at the centre of everything we do. If you are looking for specialist leading advice from professional child lawyers, get in touch with our team today via the online enquiry form.

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£84m investment for new projects to keep children out of care

Marking the 30th anniversary of the Children’s Act, the government has invested £84 million for projects designed to strengthen and support families with children in and on the edge of care.

Up to 20 councils will receive funding to help improve their practice, reaffirming the 1989 Act’s central idea that, where appropriate, families should stay together and children should be brought up with their parents.

Where there are consistently high numbers of children being taken into care, the government’s Strengthening Families, Protecting Children programme will roll out the three successful projects to other eligible councils. The projects – which aim to build resilience among more vulnerable families and improve how councils design and run their services – were initially developed by Leeds, Hertfordshire and North Yorkshire councils, all of which were rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.

The three projects that will be introduced into 20 new areas are:

  • Hertfordshire Family Safeguarding – With this particular project in place, Hertfordshire saw a 39 per cent drop in the number of days children spent in care.
  • Leeds Family Valued – Results from the project found Leeds managed to nearly half the number of children’s services Protection Plans in six years.
  • North Yorkshire No Wrong Door – Evaluation of the project revealed a 38 per cent fall in arrests of individuals during the first 18 months of the programme and a 57 per cent reduction in A&E visits.

Damian Hinds, Education Secretary, concluded:

“Every child deserves to grow up in a stable, loving family and go through life confident that someone always has your back. But for too many children, this is simply not a reality.

“In the year that sees the 30th anniversary of the Children’s Act, we must stay true to its heart – that where possible and safe, children are best brought up, loved and supported by their parents.”

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