The on-going process of reform – Financial Remedies Courts

Although there has been much reform of the processes and procedures in the family justice system in recent years, there is one area in which little has been done and much needs to be done: financial remedies. Some of its failings were exposed by the Law Commission in its 2014 report, ‘Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements’, Law Com No 343. They need to be remedied.

Case law update: Placement with adopted siblings

Last week the Court of Appeal gave judgement in Re B (A child) [2018] EWCA Civ 20 this was an unusual but interesting adoption case where the court had to weigh up the importance of a potential relationship with a full sibling who had already been adopted against placement with a family member.

The proceedings related to a little girl, B, who was born in the spring of 2016. B had an elder full brother, H, who was born in 2015 and was adopted in 2016. The essential issue before the judge was whether B should be placed with H’s adoptive parents or with her father’s cousin.

H’s adoptive parents were not party to the proceedings, the reason for this was as stated by Sir James Munby in Re T (A Child) (Early Permanence Placement) [2015] EWCA Civ 983[2017] 1 FLR 330:

“The care judge is concerned at most with consideration of adoption in principle, not with evaluating the merits of particular proposed adopters. There is no need for the prospective adopters to be joined, for it is the children’s guardian … who has the task, indeed is under the duty, of subjecting the local authority’s care plan to rigorous scrutiny and, where appropriate, criticism.”

In Re B the trial judge considered Re T which she distinguished on the basis that the facts before her were sufficiently different. In Re T the potential adopters had also been the child’s foster carers whereas in the instant case H’s adoptive parents had no pre-existing relationship with B.

Her Honour Judge George, whose decision was upheld on appeal stated that “a degree of comparison between the options before the court is unavoidable in seeking to establish what [B]’s welfare needs are and how they can best be met. That inevitably happens when the court weighs up the pros and cons of each option. However, as I hope this judgement will show, it is the principle of adoption that the court is considering in the particular facts of this case, not choosing the better of two alternative placements.” She went on to say “the court must undertake the necessary balancing exercise, but in the knowledge that the adoption placement whilst still being considered in principle holds [H]” She reminds herself that the court is carrying out a holistic global analysis of the pros and cons or each option.

The fathers appeal was dismissed.

Joint Head of Chambers, Michael Berkley is appointed as a Circuit Judge

Chambers are delighted to announce the elevation of Michael Berkley to the Circuit Bench. He has been appointed to sit as a Civil Judge based in Salisbury, but will be covering the whole eastern region of the Western Circuit. He will be formally sworn in at a ceremony before the Master of the Rolls at the Royal Courts of Justice on 5th February 2018.

Michael has given his inspiring and unstinting dedication to jointly leading chambers, with Christopher Naish, since the formation of Magdalen in 2013, for which chambers owes a debt of gratitude. Prior to the merger that brought about Magdalen, Michael had established, and headed, Rougemont Chambers from 1997 as the leading Civil set of chambers in Exeter.

His colleagues and clerks – his professional family – congratulate Michael on his fantastic achievement. We are immensely proud and wish him well in his future career, as we are sure do all of his former clients.