All Posts By

admin

Adoption Only Justified If Nothing Else Will Do

By | Library | No Comments

Adoption of children outside their natural families is always a last resort and will only be permitted if nothing else will do. The Court of Appeal made that point in coming to the aid of a couple whose son was taken from their care when he was just two days old.

Social workers removed the boy due, amongst other things, to concerns about the family’s chaotic lifestyle, his parents’ over-chastisement of their older children and his mother’s mental health difficulties. After the couple admitted offences of child cruelty and neglect, a judge ordered the boy’s placement with prospective adopters. The couple were refused permission to oppose the making of that order.

In upholding an appeal against the latter decision brought by the boy’s guardian with the parents’ support, the Court noted that, after her son’s removal, the mother had completed a course of cognitive behavioural therapy which greatly improved her mental health. The couple had also undertaken a good parenting course and all professionals involved in the case had been impressed by the warmth of the family relationships and the transformation of the couple’s attitudes. Their three older children, who had also been removed, had been returned to their care.

The Court acknowledged that the boy, who was aged almost three by the time the appeal was heard, had not seen his parents for well over a year and had been living with his prospective adopters for a similar period. However, the mere passage of time was not decisive, and the evidence indicated a significant change in the parents’ circumstances. The Court directed a further, urgent, hearing of the case at which the parents would be permitted to oppose the making of a final adoption order.

High Court Backs Big Money Divorce Wife's Pursuit of Fraudulent Husband

By | Library | No Comments

It is hardly surprising that confidential or privileged documents which have or may have been illegitimately obtained cannot be used in evidence. However, as the High Court made clear in the context of a big money divorce case, that rule does not apply where such documents are likely to assist in exposing a fraudster’s schemes.

A wife had obtained a record financial award against her husband. He had, however, failed to pay a penny and her legal team was engaged in an international struggle to enforce the debt. A former adviser to her husband had provided the wife with a USB stick containing documents concerning the husband’s affairs. That prompted the wife’s lawyers to seek the Court’s guidance as to whether the documents could be retained and made use of in the enforcement proceedings.

Ruling on the matter, the Court noted that the former adviser’s employment contract with a company through which he dealt with the husband’s affairs contained a widely drawn confidentiality clause. Many of the documents related to communications between the husband and his lawyers and they were therefore, on the face of it, absolutely privileged and thus inadmissible in evidence.

The Court, however, noted that it is a recognised exception to the rule that privilege does not extend to communications that are, whether lawyers know it or not, conducted with the intention of pursuing a fraudulent purpose. In finding that that exception applied, the Court noted that the husband had previously been found in contempt of court orders and to have engaged in an elaborate and dishonest campaign to evade enforcement of the wife’s award.

A brief perusal of the documents revealed that they formed part of the husband’s fraudulent scheme to defeat the wife’s claim. It was not a case where she had unlawfully accessed the husband’s confidential material, or procured another to do so, in the hope of obtaining some improper advantage. She had entrusted the documents to her lawyers, who had conducted a thorough review in order to weed out privileged material. In those circumstances, the Court found that it would be a disproportionate response to require the wife to destroy, or make no use of, documents which might assist in unravelling her husband’s schemes.

Couple Subjected to Race Discrimination By Adoption Agency Win Damages

By | Library | No Comments

Race discrimination may not be intentional, but it can be deeply hurtful and, with the right legal advice, victims can both express their disgust and secure compensation. In a striking case on point, a Sikh couple who were rejected as potential adopters because of their ethnicity were awarded substantial damages.

The high-earning professional couple were born and raised in England and considered themselves culturally British, whilst acknowledging their Indian heritage. After making numerous attempts to conceive by IVF, they realised that they were unlikely to have a child biologically their own and applied to a local authority-run adoption agency to be placed on its list of prospective adopters. They were, however, rejected at an early stage of the selection process.

After they launched legal proceedings, the High Court noted that there was nothing in their background to suggest that they were not suitable people to adopt or that they could not offer a loving and caring home to a child. The agency’s policy to ‘match’ children with adopters from a similar background in reality amounted to the imposition of a criterion based on race.

The stereotypical assumption that lay behind the agency’s policy of seeking an exact, or near-exact, ethnic match gave race a disproportionate importance as a factor regarding the welfare of children. In treating the couple’s race as the key criterion when considering their application, the agency had given overwhelming priority to their ethnicity over other factors which were unanimously in their favour.

The couple were particularly vulnerable, having endured numerous rounds of IVF and a sad early pregnancy loss, and were desperate for a child. Whilst stopping short of finding that the discrimination they suffered was intentional, the Court ruled it a very serious case. They were awarded approximately £120,000 in damages, reflecting the injury to their feelings and the costs arising from the discrimination.

Adoption is Always a Last Resort – Troubled Mum Achieves Redemption

By | Library | No Comments

One of the hardest tasks that family judges have to undertake is to remove children from the care of parents who are incapable of looking after them. However, as one case showed, adoption of children outside their natural families is only ever a last resort and there is always the possibility of redemption.

The case concerned a 14-month-old girl whose mother had been an alcoholic since she was in her teens. Having lived largely in care during her childhood, the mother had appeared before criminal courts for offences fuelled by her addiction. There had been extensive social services involvement in relation to her parenting of her older daughter.

The girl had spent her entire life in foster care after the local authority removed her from her mother immediately after her birth. The council was subsequently granted a full care order in respect of her and a judge directed her placement for adoption. Those orders were, however, later overturned by the Court of Appeal.

In considering the matter afresh, a different judge noted the mother’s committed and independent engagement with Alcoholics Anonymous and that she had been sober for almost two years. She had a strong family support network and the evidence established that, when sober, she could be an excellent mother.

The judge noted that severing ties between the girl, her mother and her wider family would be a great loss to her. The mother had shown increasing insight into the impact of her drinking on her child and, although there could be no guarantees, the prognosis was good if she managed to avoid alcohol for five years.

Ordering the girl’s rehabilitation to her mother’s care, subject to a supervision order, the judge found that the risks involved in that course were outweighed by the benefit to the girl of being brought up within her natural family.

Family Judge Blocks Attempt at Divorce Tourism in Big Money Case

By | Library | No Comments

English judges are respected around the world – but they are not the sole arbiters of fairness and the decisions of foreign courts must be respected. A family judge made that point in shutting the door on divorce tourism and refusing a Russian ex-wife the opportunity to seek a greater share of her husband’s enormous wealth.

During the couple’s marriage, which lasted over 30 years, they had built up a fortune which the wife estimated at $20 billion. A blizzard of litigation, in Russia and elsewhere, followed the end of their marriage. The wife claimed that, due to the power and influence exerted by her husband in their homeland, she had been awarded only $41.5 million, or less than 0.3 per cent of the marital assets, by the Russian courts.

After she moved to England, and following a hearing at which the husband was not represented, a judge granted her permission to seek further financial relief from him under the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984. That was on the basis that she had an arguable case that she had suffered a grave injustice at the hands of the Russian courts and that the sums she was awarded there came nowhere near meeting her reasonable needs.

In setting aside that permission at the husband’s behest, the same judge found that, in applying for it, the wife had breached the duty of candour that she owed to the court. Amongst other things, the provisions of Russian law, the full extent of the litigation there and the true value of the award she had received had been misrepresented.

Although there was no dispute that she was habitually resident in England, there were doubts as to whether she was domiciled here. Having moved to this country only after the end of the marriage, her connections to England were recent and modest and her links to Russia were infinitely greater.

The judge acknowledged that, given the scale of the husband’s wealth, the award to the wife made by the Russian courts was, by English standards, paltry. Had she been divorced in England, her award – whether based on the sharing principle or her reasonable needs – would have been vastly greater. To that extent, she could be said to have suffered hardship.

However, the judge noted that it is not the job of the English courts to correct alleged deficiencies in the legal systems of other countries. The wife’s case was a classic example of a spouse with no connection to England seeking to take advantage of the perceived more generous approach of English judges to the financial aspects of divorce. She had taken the fullest possible advantage of the Russian legal system and, were her claim permitted to proceed, there would be no limit to divorce tourism.

High Court Assists Husband in Drawing a Line Under His Divorce

By | Library | No Comments

Litigation can be long and bitter, but it is the prime objective of the justice system to eventually bring it to a satisfactory end. In a case on point, the High Court came to the aid of a husband in drawing a line under his divorce.

The case concerned a middle-aged couple who were self-employed in the IT world, each of them earning enough to support themselves. The wife had a child from a previous relationship who was treated as a child of the family. In dividing the marital assets between them post-separation, a family judge awarded the wife £478,000, approximately 49 per cent of the total.

After the judge handed down her judgment, but before an order was perfected giving effect to it, the wife sought to present fresh evidence that the proposed award would not meet her and her child’s reasonable housing needs. The judge was persuaded to adjourn the matter with a view to hearing further argument.

In upholding the husband’s appeal against that ruling, the Court emphasised the importance of finality in litigation. The adjournment application was a spurious attempt by a disappointed litigant to get the judge to change her mind immediately after she had given judgment. She should not have succumbed and the decision to grant an adjournment was plainly wrong. The judge was directed to make a final order reflecting the terms of her original judgment.

Divorce is Often Bitter, But Maintaining a Sense of Proportion is Crucial

By | Library | No Comments

Amidst the emotional and financial destruction that can arise from divorce, keeping a sense of proportion is crucial. The Court of Appeal made that point in lamenting a former couple’s expenditure of more than £500,000 in legal costs fighting over an asset worth less than £300,000.

At the start of the couple’s 12-year marriage, during which they had two children, they both had highly paid jobs. However, by the time of their separation, their circumstances were greatly reduced and the only asset that was potentially available for division between them was an overseas flat.

The flat was owned by a company, the sole shareholder of which was the husband’s mother. However, following a hearing, a judge found that the husband was the flat’s beneficial owner. He was ordered to pay the wife £150,000, that sum representing roughly half of the flat’s value. After the mother appealed, the judge’s orders were upheld.

In upholding the mother’s further appeal, the Court noted that the case was yet another sad example of a highly educated former couple engaging in emotionally bruising, destructive and disproportionately expensive litigation in relation to money and the young children of the marriage.

The Court found that the initial trial of the action had been infected by serious procedural irregularities and that the mother had been denied a fair hearing. There was no basis for that part of the judge’s order which set aside any transactions that had led to the flat’s title being vested in the company and ultimately the mother. She thus continued, via her shares in the company, to be the flat’s legal owner.

The Court, however, went on to uphold the judge’s conclusion that the flat was and remained in the husband’s beneficial ownership. That finding was almost inevitable on the evidence. The lump sum order made against the husband was therefore justified. The Court noted that it was a matter for the husband whether to require his mother to sell the flat in order to raise the necessary funds.

Failing to Disclose Assets Can Bite Back in Divorce

By | Library | No Comments

In a case illustrating the importance of candour regarding financial circumstances in divorce proceedings, a husband who failed to disclose the true extent of his wealth to family judges was subsequently ordered to pay his ex-wife a seven-figure lump sum, despite challenging the decision.

The couple married in 1995 and separated in 2016. They had three children who remained financially dependent on them. After their acrimonious separation, the judge considered that, if possible, it was ‘imperative’ for there to be a complete clean break between the parties. The husband had refused to dissolve the marriage by means of a Get, a religious requirement in certain sections of the Jewish community.

The judge found that the case had become ‘far more complex than it need have been, largely due to the failures of the husband to provide adequate disclosure and his lack of adherence to court orders’.

The husband was ordered to pay the wife a lump sum of £1.4 million, with the Family Court providing that, if he failed to pay all or any part of the lump sum by the required date, interest would accrue. He was also required to pay £22,000 a year in maintenance to the wife until he both satisfied the debt and granted her a Get.

An order was made under Section 10A of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 prohibiting him from applying for a decree absolute until a declaration had been filed by the parties that they had taken such steps as were required to dissolve the marriage by means of a Get.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the husband’s challenge to those orders and rejected his plea that the judge had erred in failing to quantify the extent of his financial resources. The judge was entitled to find that such an assessment had been rendered impossible by the husband’s lack of cooperation.

The Court found that the judge had undertaken a sufficient determination of the extent of the husband’s resources given the deficiencies in the evidence caused by the husband. The judge was entitled to conclude that there were sufficient resources both to meet the wife’s needs at the level of the proposed award and to meet the husband’s needs.

Family Judge Grasps Nettle in Sending Baby Boy to Live With His Father

By | Library | No Comments

Family judges are always absolutely focused on the welfare of children and will not shrink from grasping nettles to give them the best chance of leading fulfilled and happy lives. That was certainly so in one case in which a judge ordered that a baby boy be taken from his troubled mother’s care and sent to live with his father.

The mother had been diagnosed as suffering from traits of a personality disorder and her two older children had already been taken into care and placed for adoption. Her history was characterised by poor relationship choices, resulting in domestic violence, together with verbal and physical abuse of her older children.

Despite this, however, she dearly loved her youngest boy, aged one, and had made much progress in caring for him in a therapeutic environment. She wished to make a permanent home for him, but social workers and the boy’s guardian were unanimous in recommending that his father take over as his primary carer.

In ruling on the matter, the judge had no doubt as to the mother’s commitment to and deep affection for her son. The picture was not entirely bleak, but evidence revealed her sometimes erratic behaviour and her difficulty in managing her emotions and moods. In those circumstances, there was a risk that the boy would be exposed to significant harm if cared for by his mother outside a therapeutic context.

Emphasising the boy’s pressing need for stable and predictable parenting, the judge found that his welfare demanded that he live with his father, whose commitment to his son was not in doubt and who would receive support from the local authority in performing his parenting role. The judge directed that the boy should continue to have regular contact with his mother.

Court Orders Must Be Obeyed

By | Library | No Comments

Public confidence in the civil justice system would collapse if court orders were not rigorously enforced – however agonising complying with them may be. The point was made by a case in which a divorcee who refused to move out of her home of 25 years came within an ace of being sent to prison for her defiance.

Following lengthy and bitter divorce proceedings, the woman had been ordered to quit the home where she brought up her children so that it could be sold and the proceeds divided between her and her ex-husband. A writ of possession was eventually issued and she was compelled to leave by bailiffs. However, she returned to the property a few weeks later and had remained there since.

As a last resort, the husband launched committal proceedings against her. He said that he had no wish to see her jailed, but the High Court noted that more than just his private concerns were in play. Those who choose the court process to resolve their differences are entitled to expect that obedience to judicial orders will be enforced to the hilt and, if necessary, by imprisonment.

The Court noted that the wife, aged in her 50s, had never previously been in trouble with the law. She was suffering from stress and was clearly struggling to move on from her divorce. The Court imposed a six-week jail term but was prepared to suspend the sentence for 15 months. That would afford her sufficient time to clear the house of her possessions and ready it for the market.

  • For every problem there has been on my case, John always has a Plan B.
    Chambers 2019
  • He is very approachable and explains everything as well.
    Chambers 2019
  • Works incredibly hard for clients, and builds up strong empathy with clients while remaining objective and discerning.
    Chambers & Partners 2017
  • John Randle is efficient, calm, approachable, and realistic.
    Legal 500 - 2014
  • I received excellent service from John Randle. I could not have got through my case without all his help and support over the last 2 years.
    Mrs M
  • I would heartily recommend your services…..in such a stressful circumstance, it was such a relief to have someone of your calibre in my corner.
    Mrs C
  • John came highly recommended to me …..from the start of my case to its conclusion John was sympathetic, resolute with your advice and kept me focused and grounded. I can’t thank him enough for what he has done for me.
    Mrs H