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Public law – parents with learning disabilities

The author comments on the issue of local authorities and ‘learning disabled’ parenting following a case concerning the suitability of parents where both had mental health and learning difficulties. The Family Court decided that their two young children should be placed for adoption as the parents could not meet their needs, and parental consent was dispensed with. The court also made a 12-month supervision order in respect of the children’s half-sister who was 12.

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Unmarried partners – property rights

When will the courts allow the transfer of property to an unmarried partner out of a deceased partner’s estate? A recent ruling shows how the courts approach their jurisdictional powers in the transfer of property under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (I(PFD)A). This is the first time an application by an unmarried partner under the amended subsections 1(1)(ba) and 1(1A) I(PFD)A has been heard.

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Care proceedings – adoption

F’s appeal to the Court of Appeal of a decision to place his baby daughter with her sibling’s adopters was dismissed. B was born in Spring 2016, and her brother was born in 2015 and adopted in 2016. At issue was whether B should be adopted with her brother’s adoptive parents, or her father’s cousin and her partner. The trial judge made care and placement orders with a view to B’s adoption by the brother’s adoptive parents.

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Procedure – family forms

Amended family forms are now in effect as of 8 January 2018. The amended forms reflect recent changes to the evidence requirements regarding domestic abuse. The relevant forms are:

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Procedure – financial remedies courts

The President of the Family Division has issued a circular on Financial Remedies Courts which are expected to be piloted from February 2018 in London, the West Midlands and South-East Wales. To begin with, these will deal with ancillary relief cases, but will be extended to all financial remedies cases dealt with in the Family Court or Family Division. Initially, the FRC will function only with paper files, with transition to a digitised model to follow.

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Declaration of parentage – jurisdiction

The English court was the more appropriate forum to determine an application for a declaration of parentage. A British woman (DA) of Turkish descent applied for the declaration of parentage under s55A Family Law Act 1986 to establish whether the deceased was her genetic or biological father. She sought this so that her birth certificate could be amended.

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Procedure – amendments to FPR

A new Part 3A to the Family Procedure (Amendment No 3) Rules 2017 (which amend the FPR and came into force on 27 November 2017) has been inserted. Part 3A provides for participation of vulnerable persons in family proceedings.

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Children – capacity; deprivation of liberty

The parents of a disabled 16-year-old boy (D) were capable of consenting to what would otherwise have been a deprivation of D’s liberty, on the basis that D lacked Gillick capacity. D lacked the mental capacity to make decisions about his residence and care. He had been placed by the LA in a residential placement under s20 CA with his parents’ agreement. D’s litigation friend, the Official Solicitor, had agreed that the placement was in D’s best interests.

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Financial remedies – financial agreement

Even though both parties acted on their agreement and transferred assets to each other, a financial agreement had not been concluded. So held the Court of Appeal in a case where the purported agreement had been reached eight years before W started financial proceedings.

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Care proceedings – s31 threshold

In a fact-finding hearing following the death of a toddler by one of her gay adoptive parents shortly following her adoption, the Family Court concluded that the s31 threshold was crossed, even though the other adoptive parent had been exonerated of any failure to protect her.

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