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Children & Child Custody

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Family Law - Why be an expert only part of the time?

Following his article in Family Law Week (1) in which he argued for the greater use of non-legal skills in the family justice system, Richard Gregorian, family law solicitor, explains in more detail the practice model which enables psychiatrists, psychological strategists and other mental health care experts to have a far greater influence in determining the outcome of disputes involving children following marital or relationship breakdown whilst broadening their practice.

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