Court of Appeal Ban Child’s Name

Lucinda Connell profileLucinda Connell, Specialist Children’s Solicitor with Major Family Law, the best Divorce and Family Law specialists, comments:

In the case Re C (Children) [2016] EWCA Civ 364, heard last month, the Court of Appeal was asked to to determine whether there was power in this jurisdiction to prevent a parent with parental responsibility from registering a child with the forename of his or her choice and, if so, by what procedural route the court should exercise that power.

The first instance judge, sitting at Swansea Family Court declared that the Local Authority was permitted to restrict the extent to which the mother exercised her parental responsibility so as to prevent her registering the forenames ‘Preacher’ and ‘Cyanide’ and additionally made an injunction order prohibiting the mother from so registering the children or referring to either of them by those forenames in contact.

The mother appealed. The Court of Appeal heard that the mother had a long standing diagnosis of a psychotic disorder and of schizophrenia and her parenting capacity was further impaired by drug and alcohol misuse, chaotic home conditions, abusive male relationships and an inability to work with professionals in an ‘open, honest and consistent manner’.

Lady Justice King, giving the judgment of the Court of Appeal, said that she was satisfied that the court had the power to prevent a parent giving their a child a specific name but that it should be exercised only in the most extreme cases and only with the sanction of a High Court Judge. In this case the Court decided that the name ‘Cyanide’ was capable, without more, of giving the court reasonable cause to believe that the girl would be likely to suffer significant emotional harm.

After reviewing the possible routes available to the court, Lady Justice King said:

“I have reached the conclusion that there is a small category of cases where, notwithstanding the local authority’s powers under section 33(3)(b) CA 1989, the consequences of the exercise of a particular act of parental responsibility are so profound and have such an impact on either the child his or herself, and/or the Article 8 rights of those other parties who share parental responsibility with a local authority that the matter must come before the court for its consideration and determination.”

She continued:

“In my judgment this is one of those rare cases where the court, in the exercise of its inherent jurisdiction, should intervene to protect the girl twin from the emotional harm that I am satisfied she would suffer if called ‘Cyanide’.”

With regard to her brother, the Court decided that, whilst being called ‘Preacher’ would not of itself be likely to cause the child significant harm:

“It is not unusual for a child, with even the most commonplace name, to ask how his or her name was chosen. This is made more likely in the case of an unusual name, such as ‘Preacher’ and in circumstances where the children concerned are not living with their natural parents. The only possible response that his carers would be able to make in response to such a question, would be to tell the boy twin that it was the name that his birth mother had chosen for him. This would lead to the inevitable question from the girl twin as to whether her name had also been chosen for her by her mother and, if not why not? She would undoubtedly ask what name her mother had given to her and why it had been changed. The outcome of such a predictable conversation would be to expose the girl twin to a significant part of the very harm the court seeks to prevent; she would know not only that her mother had chosen to call her ‘Cyanide’, but also to have to come to terms with the fact that she was to have been named after a notorious poison, whilst her twin brother was to be given the name of a respected member of society, ‘Preacher’.”


Pension Tracing Service Website Launched

Lucinda Connell silhouetteLucinda Connell, Senior Solicitor with Major Family Law, North East and South East top divorce and family law specialists, comments:  Family lawyers and members of the public alike will welcome the news that the the Pension Tracing Service has launched a new DWP website to help people more easily and quickly locate any lost pension savings.

It is estimated that there is currently £400 million in unclaimed pension savings. This is money people have previously saved for their retirement, and the new website should better help people to locate their retirement savings. Pension savings may, and often are, a key asset for consideration on divorce and this service will assist in ensuring that full information is to hand when considering the pension provision both parties to the marriage have respectively accrued.

If anyone thinks they may be missing out on any savings, they may wish to use the online service at which is free of charge.

“Murder!” he wrote

Profile bRead what our Surrey consultant solicitor, Lewis Hulatt, of Major Family Law, the divorce and family law specialists says: Regular readers of this blog might say that I have ‘murdered’ the English language from time to time, but such violence is a serious business.  Not living in Midsomer, from recollection, I can only think of two people that I have known who have been murdered.  The brother of a school-friend was blown up by the IRA, his only crime being in the wrong place at the wrong time and the other, Milly Dowler, was killed by a very nasty piece of work who seems to hate women.

Which brings me on to this week’s blog – domestic violence and abuse.

When the legislators announced that they planned to make domestic abuse a crime, my initial reaction was not to praise them for recognising the harm of systematically degrading somebody to the point that they cannot function independently. Instead, I worried that the definition would be so badly worded that ‘domestic abuse’ would be meaningless. People confide in me about the shame they feel for allowing themselves to be treated badly and when Legal Aid was freely available, as a newly-qualified solicitor I would regularly appear before the Magistrates and District Judges to urge protection for the abused.  It was almost always granted as the protection amounted to a court order that for the most part threatened the abuser with punishment if he (more often ‘he’) continued with criminal behaviour.  Whoopee.

And therein lies the problem: most domestic abuse amounts to criminal behaviour whether or not there is an injunction – assault, battery, ABH, wounding, GBH, blackmail, threats to kill, behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace – it was all criminal behaviour under existing law, so why pay a lawyer to persuade a Judge to tell somebody not to commit a crime? I have never been enthusiastic about that, but sometimes a warning from the Domestic Violence Unit of the local police service is not enough.  Personally, I favour bail conditions as a means to discourage bad behaviour, but some people say that I have a defective money-making gene.

“Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them” by Dr Susan Forward was helpful to me in understanding the pattern of abuse.

Remember the saying “Where there is life, there is hope” as once recognised, domestic abuse can become a bad memory instead of an everyday fear.

The solicitors at MFL understand such problems.

I Will Survive

p131940-(2)Our Surrey Consultant, Lewis Hulatt, of Major Family Law, divorce and family law specialists, comments: Imagine Sam Allardyce belting out Gloria Gaynor’s hit at a players’ party. I admit that it is not a pretty sight.  Resembling a hippo daddy-dancing, it would have considerably less pathos than Rafa Benitez performing Jimmy Ruffin’s “What becomes of the broken hearted?” Contrasting moods, but timing is everything.

When somebody realises that a relationship is going seriously wrong, the time to act on is upon them.   Had NUFC been more decisive, the action they took in bringing in a lauded manager could realistically have preserved Premiership status and offered the opportunity to build on survival and improve, but left too late, Newcastle and the Premiership are now officially separated.

In football, each season is a known period of time, but even so, putting things right can be left too late – there are factors that can take things outside a club’s control. In relationships, one partner may have an unspoken deadline for the other to have ‘tried’ or circumstances may become such that taking remedial action is much more difficult.

Sometimes, to the other it is ‘too little, too late’ and they have given up.

I recall advising a couple who wanted to talk through a proposed financial settlement. As we went through the legal mechanisms and principles to be applied, the wife became very angry indeed and so with their agreement, I spoke to each separately for a few minutes.  The wife was angry that the husband ‘just didn’t seem to care’, yet when I then spoke to the husband, he gave the impression of caring a great deal – through tears, he told me that he had been broken-hearted about the breakdown 18 months earlier, but that he had got used to the idea and now needed to sort out the practicalities. The wife hadn’t known of his earlier distress and by the time she realised that he had cared a great deal, all that was left was to sort out the practicalities in a cooperative way. Timing.

At MFL in addition to the solicitors being Resolution members and understanding what we do in context, we also have a consultant who is a relationship counsellor – Graeme Armstrong.

Maybe speaking to Graeme or somebody like him can make it ‘a stich in time’.

Timing is everything.

8% Drop in Marriages

Lucinda Connell silhouetteOur specialist divorce senior lawyer, Lucinda Connell, of Major Family Law, the best divorce and family law specialists in the North and South East, comments:

The Office for National Statistics has released statistics relating to marriages in England and Wales in 2013 and the figures reveal the first annual decline since 2009. In 2013, there were 240,854 marriages which is a decrease of 8.6% compared with 2012.

Civil ceremonies accounted for 72% of all marriages in 2013. Religious ceremonies decreased by 14% while civil ceremonies declined by 6% in 2013, compared with figures in 2012.

More than 75% of brides and grooms marrying in 2013 were marrying for their first (and hopefully last) time. Those aged 65 and over were more likely to marry in 2013 compared with 2003, with the greatest increase among women. The mean average age at marriage was 36.7 years for men and 34.3 years for women in 2013, a small increase compared with 2012.

Elizabeth McLaren, at the Vital Statistics Outputs Branch of ONS, said:

“The fall could indicate the continuation of the long-term decline in marriages since 1972 or could be due to couples choosing to postpone their marriage to avoid the number 13 which is perceived as unlucky by many cultures.”


Children of Mother Trying to Move Family to Syria Taken Into Care

Lucinda Connell profileLucinda Connell, the North East’s best family and children lawyer, of Major Family Law, divorce and children law specialists, comments: The High Court has ruled in Leicester City Council v T [2016] EWFC 20 that the 3 children of a Leicester woman who tried to take them to Isis-controlled territory must live with their grandmother. The mother was arrested at Birmingham Airport having checked in 9 suitcases on a flight to Munich. The mother’s initial account had been that she and the children were taking a holiday to see their father in Munich from where they were to travel on to France.  Information located in the mother’s luggage however showed an itinerary which contradicted this and revealed onward travel from Munich to Istanbul where she had booked accommodation with the children and her husband for 3 nights. Her husband is believed to be in Chechnya with a terrorist group.  Following examination of electronic devices and mobile phones at the family’s home, there was an indication that the mother had been in conversation with a large number of people known to be linked to Islamic State. One particular individual is known to be a prominent member of Islamic State.

Mr Justice Keehan said that returning to the mother’s care would not be in the best interests of the children, aged between 4 and 12 years. Instead, he ordered that they remain in the care of their maternal grandparents. No specific order was made in respect of contact.

Child Maintenance Service Caseload Up By 21%

Family-lawLucinda Connell, Senior Specialist Family Law with Major Family Law, the top divorce and children law specialists, says: The number of cases managed by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) clearly continues to increase following the introduction of application and collection charging. The CMS caseload stood at 227,000 cases as at the end of February 2016, an increase of some 21% when compared to November 2015.

Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions, for the three monthly period to February 2016, show that 87% of Case Groups (ie. all of the cases associated to a paying parent) were contributing towards their current liability, with 88% of cash due having been paid. There has been a slight change to service levels; although the proportion of calls answered was at 98%, those answered within 30 seconds decreased from 94% in November 2015 to 86% in February 2016. Accuracy levels increased from 92% in November 2015 to 93% in February 2016. The DWP publication contains information on cases being processed on the 2012 statutory child maintenance scheme, delivered by the CMS. The 2012 Scheme was introduced to support families who are unable to make arrangements themselves. The 2012 Scheme will replace the 1993 and 2003 Schemes (administered by the Child Support Agency) over the next few years as 1993 and 2003 cases are closed.

Virtual Unreality

p131940-(2)Our Surrey Consultant Solicitor, Lewis Hulatt of Major Family Law, the niche specialist divorce and family law solicitors, says:

You will not be surprised to hear that I saw Jethro Tull perform “Living in the Past”: after all, if I was “too old to rock n roll, too young to die(t)” it almost goes without saying. The ‘t’ came later.   As a guy who saw Lindisfarne, back with Alan Hull, you might expect me to be a bit ‘retro’ were it not that I am a consultant for Major Family Law.   The past is what the present was after it stopped being the future.

Which brings me to this week’s thought.

How much do couples live in the present? Obviously, ‘100%’ is the technical answer, but I can remember being somewhat outraged when my wife and I sat in a restaurant and seemed the only people either interested in either the food or having a conversation with each other.   It is not that I am a luddite – during that trip I had an email from the Pope confirming that I could visit the Vatican Museum – you may doubt that, but ‘Frankie’ seems truly humble and who is to say that he did not press ‘send’ when I emailed seeking tickets using hotel wi-fi that evening?  Does he seem too proud to have been putting in a shift dealing with museum tickets?  I don’t think so!  Anyhow, possessed of Papal-blessed e-tickets or not, I really felt for the chef.  He was new and working hard to impress the diners, yet looking round the room almost nobody was paying attention to the food – they were all engrossed in their phones, tablets and laptops.   When I saw couples exclusively attending to their electronica rather than each other, I was disappointed.

Divorces have moved on from having their roots in the dormant baggage that ‘Friends Reunited’ enabled them to unzip, to having problems on Facebook, but that is not the limit of the damage that can be caused by undisciplined IT use.   It does not need somebody to be ‘sexting’ for IT to be a problem – a couple of years ago, I did a divorce where the main problem had been that the guy cared more about ‘levelling up’ in his game than his wife moving on to giving another guy unscreened ‘face-time’.  They remained buddies, just not…

At MFL, we understand if the wife is an ‘Angry Bird’ or the husband merely a ‘Max Payne’.


Trevor DoorSenior Solicitor, Trevor Gay of Major Family Law, the top divorce and family law specialists in the North East and South East, states:

In life it is often said that the most stressful things you can ever do is to divorce or to move house. Unfortunately some people find themselves in a situation where both happen at the same time. What can you do to make it as easy as possible? Or more importantly what can we at Major Family Law do for you?

What should you look for or expect from your solicitor?

It is important to consider the personal relationship almost as much as the quality of the advice. If you do not feel comfortable then will you ever be truly satisfied and happy with the outcome. Our team of experienced Family Solicitors pride ourselves on listening to you and adapting the advice to your circumstances.

What will happen?

Key to being able to reach an agreement with your spouse is understanding the law and being able to apply this to your circumstances.  It is important you get guidance on the factors a Court would take into account so that you can consider what a fair settlement might be for you.

Methods of settlement?

Your lawyer will be able to talk you through the options so that you can choose the best way forward for you. Obviously it is not entirely your choice and it will require two parties to negotiate.

Consideration of all avenues to reaching an agreement in relation to the financial elements of the breakdown of the marriage can include; direct discussions between the parties, mediation, collaborative law or written negotiations between the parties’ solicitors.  If an agreement can be reached using these means, it is likely to significantly reduce the cost.

Don’t poor petrol on a fire!

Recent research suggests that the impact of social media on divorce cases is on the increase.  Confidentiality is often a key issue for some clients and solicitors are acutely aware of the need for privacy in these difficult times. Try to avoid posting on social media about the divorce, the relationship or your spouse as this can lead to issues within the case, potentially inflame matters and derail any settlement.

The above is a quick, and none exhaustive list of some of the things you should consider on any change in your circumstances. It is also worth considering some things which may not be so sensible.

For a free initial interview in relation to divorce or any other Family Law matter don’t hesitate to contact us.

Cohabitation – Know your rights

Trevor DoorNew Senior Solicitor, Trevor Gay, of Major Family Law, the best divorce and family law specialists, in the North and South East, comments:

In the time I have been practicing there have been many changes in the world of family law. Among the most substantial challenges in this period has been how the Courts adapt to unmarried couples.

In the case of any unmarried couple the law was simply a matter of contract. What each party owned they could keep. Often this leads to little more than a dispute over the division of the CD collection.

If a property is owned by one party prior to the relationship it remained theirs. All that the other could ask is for reasonable notice to quit what was essentially a contractual license.

Where there was a financial contribution it was considered and the Court could imply a beneficial interest. The easiest way to establish this was a direct contribution to the purchase or for the mortgage to have been unobtainable without the combined incomes of the party.

Significant contributions to the finances could lead to an award being made based on the precise nature of the arrangements made between the parties. Often the Court was being asked to decide what the parties would have intended IF they had considered the issue.

In October 2015, the Court of Appeal gave Judgment in the case of Barnes v. Phillips [2016] WTLR 13, the latest in a line of cases involving the beneficial ownership of property by unmarried couples.

The parties purchased a property in joint names in 1996. Various steps over the next 10 years lead to additional borrowing. Some of the money funded buy to let properties in the sole name of one party and paid off some debts, but crucially not all of the debt!!!

The relationship between the parties broke down in around June 2005, but they continued to contribute to the mortgage repayments in respect of the property, as well as making payments for the maintenance of the parties’ two children. This continued until approximately January 2008.

In this case, after years of litigation the Court of Appeal found that the parties’ conduct did demonstrate a common intention to vary the shares in which they held the property.

After extensive consideration the Court decided that in this case it should be shared 75/25.

The matters above, and other case law during this period, shows the difficulty the Court has when peoples relationships, personal and financial, vary over the course of the relationship. Careful consideration before entering into sharing of your personal finances or any significant changes.

Look out for the problems with the bank of Mum and Dad in this months North East Times.

I am in a position to offer advice on issues like the above, whatever stage you find yourself at.