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Figures show rise in care applications

Barnardos has issued a statement following the release of figures by Cafcass, the children's court advisory service, which show that the number of applications from local councils to take children into care in England has exceeded 10,000 for the first time.Barnardo's Deputy Chief Executive, Jane Stacey, says:“While the increase in the number of children being referred into care might seem alarming, I am pleased that decisions are being made more quickly to remove children from damaging situations.“We must intervene early to support families but where parenting is still not good enough, urgent action must be taken to protect children from damaging situations. Care can and does improve the lives of vulnerable children. This is why it is essential that we ensure that there are more foster or adoptive parents available to provide them with a stable and loving home.”The figures from Cafcass also reveal that there were a total of 886 applications in March 2012. Applications received between May 2011 to February 2012 this year have been the highest ever recorded by Cafcass for these individual months.

Court of Appeal cuts civil partnership 'divorce' settlement

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the 'divorce' settlement paid to a gay man after the break up of his civil partnership should be reduced by over £200,000, reports the Independent.Don Gallagher, an actor, and Peter Lawrence, an equity analyst, had lived together since 1997, and entered into a civil partnership in 2007. Their relationship broke down seven months later. The couple had joint assets worth around £4 million, including a London flat that Mr Lawrence had bought before the couple met. The majority of their income had come from Mr Lawrence, while Mr Gallagher had taken more of a 'home making' role along with continuing his acting career.After the couple split up, the court awarded Mr Gallagher a £1.7 million share of the assets in recognition of his contribution to the relationship, however Mr Lawrence argued that this was too large a share. The Court of Appeal upheld his appeal, and ruled that the settlement should be reduced.

Kinship carers not adequately supported

The charity Family Rights Group has warned that family and friends carers are not receiving adequate support from local authorities to help them raise some of the country's most vulnerable children. When children are unable to live with either of their parents, official guidance stipulates they should be enabled to live with a member of their extended family or social network, provided this is feasible and in the child’s best interests. Yet one of the largest series of studies to date, by Family Rights Group, in partnership with Oxford University’s Centre for Family Law and Policy, has uncovered a major lack of support for family and friends carers or ‘kinship carers’ and the estimated 250,000 children living with them.The study found that 45% of English local authorities had not published a family and friends care policy, despite being required by the government to do so by the end of September 2011. The study also found that 76% of carers surveyed felt they did not have enough understanding of the legal options and the implications for the level of support they would receive to make informed decisions. These options include:

Survey into cohabitation, marriage and divorce

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has carried out a recent survey into cohabitation, marriage and divorce in America, reports Yahoo! News. The study found that around half of first time marriages break up within 20 years. The research also found that engaged couples living together before marriage were no more likely to get divorced than couples who got married before they moved in together. Commenting on the study findings regarding cohabitation, Casey Copen, lead author of the study, said; "It's not playing as big a role in predicting divorce as it used to."However, according to Yahoo!, couples that eventually got married after cohabiting for a time without being engaged were found to have a greater risk of divorce.

ECHR rules on same-sex adoption case

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in the case of Gas and Dubois v. France that the refusal to allow a woman to adopt her same-sex partner’s child was not discriminatory.The applicants, Valérie Gas and Nathalie Dubois, are French nationals who have been cohabiting since 1989. In September 2000 Nathalie Dubois gave birth in France to a daughter, A, who had been conceived in Belgium by means of medically-assisted procreation with an anonymous donor. The child does not have an established parental tie with the father, in accordance with Belgian law. She has lived all her life in the applicants’ shared home. In April 2002 Ms Gas and Ms Dubois entered into a civil partnership agreement, and then, in March 2006, Ms Gas applied to the Nanterre tribunal de grande instance for a simple adoption order in respect of her partner’s daughter; her partner had given her express consent before a notary. In July 2006 the court observed that the statutory requirements for the adoption had been met and that it had been demonstrated that Ms Gas and Ms Dubois were actively and jointly involved in the child’s upbringing, caring for and showing affection to her. However, it refused the application on the grounds that the adoption would have legal implications which ran counter to the applicants’ intentions and the child’s best interests. This finding was upheld by the Versailles Court of Appeal, which considered that, since the applicants would be unable to share parental responsibility as permitted by the Civil Code in the case of adoption by the spouse of the child’s biological mother or father, the adoption would deprive Ms Dubois of all rights in relation to her child.The applicants complained of the refusal of Ms Gas’s application to adopt Ms Dubois’s child. They maintained that this decision had infringed their right to private and family life in a discriminatory manner, in breach of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life).In a Chamber judgment, which is not final, the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been no violation of these convention rights. The Court saw notably no evidence of a difference in treatment based on the applicants’ sexual orientation, as opposite-sex couples who had entered into a civil partnership were likewise prohibited from obtaining a simple adoption order.

Same-sex marriage moves a step closer

The government has begun a consultation exercise, seeking views on how to lift the ban on same-sex couples marrying in a civil ceremony.

Fathers should be made to meet child maintenance responsibilities

A new report by think tank Policy Exchange has claimed that non-resident fathers on benefits should be made to work if they refuse to take financial responsibility for their children.

Charities voice concerns that legal changes will harm children

Six major children’s charities have joined together to voice concerns that children will be denied access to justice in proposed changes to legal aid.

Police given new guidance to disclose a history of violence

The home secretary has announced that police forces in Greater Manchester, Gwent, Nottinghamshire and Wiltshire are to pilot a new domestic violence disclosure scheme (DVDS).

Marriages and civil partnerships in England and Wales 2010

The Office for National Statistics has recently published a bulletin giving provisional annual statistics on marriages and civil partnerships that took place in England and Wales in 2010.

Authorities must tackle delays in adoption

Ofsted has warned local authorities that, under new adoption inspection arrangements, they will only be able to achieve an ‘outstanding’ judgement if they ensure all children identified for adoption are placed within twelve months. These new arrangements will be implemented in April this year.

IFLA launches family arbitration scheme

A new arbitration scheme has been launched to enable family disputes to be resolved without going through a formal court process.

Divorce is easier to cope with at an older age

A recent study by researchers at Michigan State University have found that divorce at a younger age hurts people’s health more than divorce later in life. According to Hui Liu, the author of the study, the findings suggest older people have more coping skills to deal with the stress of divorce.

More needs to be done to protect children from divorce

A recent research project in America has found that a 'good divorce' is almost impossible to achieve, in terms of the impact divorce has on children, reports the Daily Mail.

Concerns over government response to the Family Justice Review

Nagalro, the professional association for court guardians, has welcomed the government’s commitment to reducing delay in the family justice system, but has raised concerns that the proposals may harm children’s interests.

Commission to clarify the law on financial provision

The Law Commission has announced that it is to carry out a review of two aspects of the law that entitles married couples and civil partners to claim financial provision from one another on divorce or dissolution of their partnership.

Ministers outline proposals to reform family justice system

The government has published its response to the recommendations of the family justice review panel, in which it outlines proposed reforms to tackle delays, streamline processes and rebuild trust.

ILR - Leave to Remove-Form over Substance is what’s important

In this two-part article Richard Gregorian and Gavin Emerson of Gregorian Emerson Family Law Solicitors explain the difficulties with the arguments relied on by critics of Payne v Payne and explain why the focus in defending these critically important proceedings should be on ensuring due process.

Leave to remove / international relocation - A Lawyer’s (all too personal) view

A commercial litigator presents a highly personal view of some perceived procedural and evidential flaws in leave to remove / international relocation cases, borne out by his own experiences in successfully defending an application through the family courts.

Where do children live when international relationships breakdown?

An article by Richard Gregorian, principal of Gregorian Emerson Family Law Solicitors (www.gelaw.co.uk) and Gavin Emerson, Brief Strategic Therapist.

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