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Year on year increase in private law children cases

Private law children cases are at an all-time high, according to figures released by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, or Cafcass as it is often known.

Cafcass is an independent organisation charged with the task of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children going through the family courts. Their primary aim is to ensure that each child is given a voice and that all decisions are made in their best interests.

Private law children cases cover arrangements for the children where parents are separated or divorced, usually about where the child will live or with whom they will spend time. Arrangements for grandparents can also be included.

During the period 2014-15, Cafcass recorded 34,119 cases, which was a 27% decrease on the previous year. Since then, each year has seen a year-on-year increase of between 3.1% and 10%. As a result, during the 2018-19 reporting period a total of 43,908 cases were recorded.

During July alone, a total of 4,369 new private law cases were received – an alarming 18.7% or 688 cases higher than July last year.

Figures for the first quarter of 2019-20 already show 15,559 cases, indicating that the current financial year will very likely see yet another increase.

Commenting on the report, children law expert, Alison McIlroy said: “This increase demonstrates that family issues are getting ever more complex.”

It’s also worth noting that in private law a single case may involve several children and various different types of application. Therefore, the number of cases is not an accurate reflection of the number of children caught up in the family court system.

If you are experiencing issues regarding arrangements for children and need guidance, our family law experts are here to help. We offer a free initial consultation and Legal Aid is still available in certain circumstances.

For a no obligation discussion about your options please call 01302 320621.

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Rising number of babies being taken into care

The number of newborn babies being taken into care in England is rising, according to a recent study.

Research, led by Professor Karen Broadhurst at Lancaster University, revealed that the number of babies removed from their parents has increased by 136% over the last nine years.

Almost all the 16,849 cases identified in the study resulted in care orders being granted to the local authorities.  The babies were then placed for adoption, put into foster care or placed with extended family; very few remained with their birth parent.

There were also significant regional variations highlighted in the research which showed that babies born in Yorkshire and the Humber were twice as likely to be subject to care proceedings as those born in London.

Sir James Mumby, retired president of the Family Division of the High Court expressed concerns about the regional variations and said they showed significant differences between the way the courts and local authorities behaved.

Professor Broadhurst, who first highlighted the alarming rise back in 2015, noted that around 35 babies in every 10,000 live births are likely to be taken from their parents. Many will be removed within hours of birth, because they have been identified as being at risk of significant harm.

However, there are questions around first time cases and whether there has been sufficient time to establish the likelihood of significant harm. Professor Broadhurst said: “For infants whose family is new to the court, pregnancy provides only a short window for the assessment of parenting capacity and support for change”.

Commenting on the findings, Michelle Lawton, children law specialist at Atherton Godfrey, said: “Removing the child is a severe form of intervention. However, authorities do have a duty to safeguard the child and often have to act swiftly.

If you are notified that the local authority is going to issue care proceedings, you should get legal advice immediately.

If you have parental responsibility, whether as a parent or as an extended family member, you will be able to claim legal aid so you don’t have to worry about paying for legal advice or the cost of a solicitor to go along to the court hearings with you.”

If social services become involved with your family, contact us for a confidential chat about your options.


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Michelle Lawton joins Atherton Godfrey

We are delighted to welcome Michelle Lawton to our family law department.  Michelle is a solicitor who specialises in children law and is Law Society Children Law accreditied.  She has been working in the Retford area and is looking forward to helping children and their families and guardians in our region.

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New children law solicitor joins Atherton Godfrey

Atherton Godfrey is delighted to announce that solicitor Alison McIlroy has joined its family team.

Alison specialises in arrangements for children and child care issues.  She qualified as a solicitor in 1996 and moved to work for a firm in Sheffield, where she specialised in family and criminal law.

She soon realised that working with families struggling with issues around children, including divorce, separation and care proceedings was her passion.

During the last 8 years, Alison has worked in Doncaster as a family mediator, specialising in children matters as an accredited mediator and a child consultant.  Alison was also a professional practice consultant involved in training and supervising other mediators.  She was instrumental in setting up a project aimed at ensuring that children had their say and were listened to when their parents were divorcing or separating.

Alison says “I am delighted to be working at Atherton Godfrey and keen to continue helping children and their parents, families and guardians.  Families may find themselves needing representation when social services intervene with matters such as care proceedings or where there are issues between parents or other family members concerning arrangements for children.”

Don Bird, partner and head of Atherton Godfrey’s family team says “Alison is a welcome addition to our family team.  She brings with her many skills that will enhance our existing service and benefit the residents of Doncaster.’