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20 of the best: family law blogs and news from the past week – March/April 2012

Below are 20 of the best family law blogs and news posts from around the web in the past week. If you have published or found a useful family law-related post that hasn’t been spotted, please do add a link to the comments section below.

Wanted: family justice narratives – Lucy Reed in the Guardian

Editor of the Pink Tape family law blog, Lucy Reed invites readers to share their experiences of working in the family justice system.

‘No good arguments against no fault divorce’, top judge says – Telegraph

Renewed calls for “no fault divorce” from Britain’s leading family law judge, Sir Nicholas Wall.

Launch of Family Law arbitration scheme marked by IFLA event – Family Law Week

On Monday 26 March 2012 the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA) marked the launch of the new Family Law Arbitration Scheme.

Other blogs on the family law arbitration scheme:-

Family Law Arbitration in the UK –

Russell-Cooke welcomes the new Family Law Arbitration Scheme (26/03/12) – News – Russell-Cooke

Knights in shining armour? Family law arbitration rides to the rescue | jonesmyers blog

Lawrence v Gallagher [2012] EWCA Civ 394 – Family Law Week

The Court of Appeal has ruled in Lawrence v Gallagher that the division of assets in a civil partnership ‘divorce’ should be treated in a similar way to those in a heterosexual divorce.

More blogs on Lawrence v Gallagher:

Lawrence v Gallagher: Judicial creations should not be elevated to the status of s.25 criteria – Family Lore

Divorce principles to apply to civil partnership breakup – FLB

Court of Appeal cuts civil partnership ‘divorce’ settlement- Gregorian Emerson

Fifty years in family law: Staffordshire University Conference – Marilyn Stowe Blog

Marilyn visited the Staffordshire University Law School’s Annual Family Law Conference this weekend and produces a comprehensive account of the event.

New Rules for Families? – Cotswold Family Law

Discussion and comment on The Family Justice Review (“FJR”).

New family laws are divorced from reality – Tehelka

Flavia Agnes takes a look at India’s family laws in this opinion piece, noting that moves to make divorces easier may look good on paper but may end up giving a raw deal to women who are not financially independent.

Surge in demand for domestic abuse advice during Old Firm match – CBC Blog

Shelter Scotland has reported a sharp rise in the number of visits to its website from women looking for help and advice on domestic abuse following its recent Facebook advertising campaign.

Conflict and violence in families – Austin Lafferty

National charity, 4Children, has recently published the results of its research into conflict and violence in families.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want – Marshall Chambers

A lesson for litigants: answers provided by the Court may not be the answers desired by the litigant; or any of the litigants!

Rise in international child flee cases – Pannone Family Law Blog

There has been a significant rise in child abduction cases in England and Wales, as per a Report out this week by Lord Justice Thorpe, chief of the Office of the Head of International Family Justice.

Family Lore: Grubb v Grubb: “To be involved in ancillary relief litigation is a dire prospect for any husband or wife”

The report of Grubb v Grubb [2012] EWCA Civ 398, published on Bailii this week may be brief but it is not without interest. Family Lore comments.

Jennifer Brandt: Your First Meeting With A Divorce Lawyer

‘Getting a divorce is never a fun experience, but picking the right lawyer will help you cope with the process while getting a fair and equitable result’ says Jennifer Brandt. Her tips are blogged at the Huffington Post.

Mega-rich divorcees in court squabble over loose change |

One from Australia: Having split the family’s $151,037,015 wealth with his ex-wife, a businessman realised he had overpaid and went to the Family Court to get his money back.

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Domestic Violence Family Law

‘Clare’s Law’- A change for the better for victims of domestic violence?

In October 2008, Clare Wood ended her relationship with George Appleton. Her rejection sparked a campaign of abuse, resulting in her horrific murder four months later. Appleton had a history of violence against women, including harassment, threats and kidnapping a former girlfriend at knifepoint.

Despite a number of complaints to the police, resulting in a panic button being fitted in her home, this was not enough to save Clare. Her murder made clear that the treatment of domestic crime requires improvement. This led to a government proposal, named ‘Clare’s Law’, enabling the police to disclose information to partners of those with histories of domestic violence.

The pilot scheme, announced on 5th March 2012, will begin this summer. It follows a government consultation published in October 2011 which investigated whether a national disclosure scheme could improve the safety of people in relationships with previous offenders. The initial consultation raised important issues, such as how much information should be released and in which circumstances, and how malicious requests will be avoided. The government seeks to address these matters during the scheme’s trial.

The pilot is testing two processes for disclosing information about a partner’s violent history; the first is triggered by a query from a member of the public (‘The Right To Ask’); the second is where police disclose information in order to protect a potential victim (‘The Right To Know’). Taking into account the amount of government and police time, and taxpayers’ money spent on this issue, it is important to consider the implications of this scheme.

Two people are killed by their partner each week in England and Wales; domestic violence is the cause of nearly 40 per cent of all female[1] UK homicides[2]. Evidently, government attention in this area is required, but is Clare’s Law the answer to reducing these figures? Refuge, one of the UK’s longest running domestic violence charities does not think so. The charity has criticised the proposed disclosure laws as ‘reactive rather than proactive’.

The theory behind the Government’s scheme is that if someone told that their partner has a history of domestic violence, they can then make an informed decision whether to continue with the relationship. This, however, raises many problems; if, like Clare Wood, a woman had no previous indication of her partner’s violent behaviour, then she would be unlikely to make an enquiry. Also, it is extremely doubtful that the scheme anticipates all those embarking on a new romance to carry out a police background check – it is simply unrealistic and doesn’t reflect reality.

Further, it is often on ending the relationship that people turn violent, as was the case with Wood and Appleton. Considering this, what is a woman to do when burdened with the information of her partner’s history? Many in such relationships stay with their partners out of fear for what would happen should they leave. Others might not leave because of love and belief that their partner can change. Would a woman be blamed for not leaving her partner when informed of his violent past?

The proposed ‘Right To Know’ process means police will inform potential victims of domestic violence. Statistics show that 44 per cent of victims are involved in more than one incident[3], so certainly many victims are already aware of what their partners are capable of, without being informed by the police. Knowing that their partners terrorised others before them would provide little solace.

Additionally, how would the police determine who they should inform? Appleton trawled social networking sites looking for his women. Are the police to follow these men from relationship to relationship, or message all their Facebook friends issuing warnings; for surely any one of them could be his potential victim. If a woman was able to escape an abusive relationship as a result of police disclosure, the perpetrator would simply be able to move onto his next victim. The problem is thereby displaced rather than prevented.

The police can only inform on the basis of information they have available: the details of those previously convicted. Considering that less than 40 per cent of domestic violence cases are reported to the police, a minor proportion of offenders will have police records, making it extremely unlikely for those making enquiries under ‘The Right To Know’ to obtain accurate information.

Having considered the implications of the proposed scheme, I think the most important thing is the way in which the police handle the disclosures. Potentially life-changing and life-threatening information is dangerous if unaccompanied by police support and intervention. Because the majority of cases go unreported, police time would be better spent conducting thorough investigations into allegations of abuse and monitoring those with troublesome histories. In a less than ideal world where prevention is impossible, protection should be key.

By Judy Benmayer of

HighStreetLawyer offers advice in all areas of law, including Family Law problems.

[1] Although it is recognised that men also suffer from domestic violence, it is primarily an issue affecting women, (a third of domestic violence victims are men according to the National Centre for Domestic Violence). It is currently unclear whether Clare’s Law would apply to male and female victims, as so this article has been written from a female-centric perspective.

[2]  (Povey, (ed.), 2005; Home Office, 1999; Department of Health, 2005.)

[3] Dodd et al