Showing news stories posted in 2008
Showing 1 - 3 of 3
Previous | Next
Following the success of other Young Resolution groups, Young Kent resolution was launched on 13th November 2008 in Maidstone.
The Young Kent Resolution Committee members are Alice Biggs-Davison and Abigail Harding of Warners, Sevenoaks; Caroline Bourn of Buss Murton, Tunbridge Wells; Anne Guppy of Rix & Kay, Uckfield; Sarah Keily and Joanna Norris of Thomson Snell & Passmore, Tunbridge Wells and Laura Smail of Cripps Harries Hall, Tunbridge Wells.
The launch event was held at Brachers Solicitors, Maidstone and special guests District Judge Millward of Maidstone County Court and District Judge Lethem of Tunbridge Wells County Court spoke to over 30 young family practitioners about advocacy tips, common pitfalls and helpful suggestions for the young family lawyer.
The talks were extremely well received and were followed by questions and answers from the audience. Members and guests stayed to enjoy drinks and canapés afterwards.
Young Kent Resolution are currently planning training and social events for 2009. If you would like further information about future Young Kent Resolution events please contact Joanna Norris at Thomson Snell & Passmore on 01892 510 000 or email@example.com.
Joanna Norris, Sarah Keily, Dawn Harrison
Anne Guppy, Sarah Keily, Laura Smail, District Judge Lethem of Tunbridge Wells County Court, District Judge Millward of Maidstone County Court, Joanna Norris, Alice Biggs-Davison and Abigail Harding.
The launch in full swing!
On 28 November the Kent Region held both its AGM and traditional seminar beforehand.
Delegates heard from Simon Gill of 29 Bedford Row on the ever tricky areas of both costs in family proceedings and prenuptial agreements. Simon was followed by his colleague from chambers, David Walden-Smith, who drew our attention to other recent ancillary relief developments. All this before the tea break!
After tea, Simon Fisher of Cane Cohen Limited, Chartered Financial Planners skilfully drew attention to pension pitfalls (and how to avoid them!), including highlighting problems that we will all as practitioners face more and more.
Feedback for all the speakers was very positive.
Afterwards, we decamped to the bar for the AGM. Long serving committee members Myrtle Walter, Terry Payne and Fiona Wilson formally stood down, with the Chair’s thanks for their service. New blood was also introduced as Joanna Norris and Sarah Keily joined the committee, sharing a place, having set up a successful launch of Kent’s Young Resolution group earlier in the month. The Committee is already looking forward to the challenges of 2009!
When Lord Lester and Resolution sent around their consultation paper this September entitled “reforming the law for people who live together”, as Chairman of the Kent Region who had organised a debate on this very topic, I could not be more delighted. We had a great turn out with many members interested in discussing the reforms prior to returning their response to the consultation paper.
We were very honoured to have the sharp minds of Philip Cayford QC and Peter Mitchell from 29 Bedford Row presenting for the motion and James Turner QC and Harry Oliver of 1 Kings Bench Walk against the motion. Chairing the debate was His Honour Judge Polden who became the designated Family Law Judge for Kent on 1st September 2008 having distinguished himself as a District Judge in the region for many years and before that practising as a partner in a local Kent firm of solicitors.
The debate was fiercely contested but with a great deal of repartee and comments from the audience to enliven the points under consideration.
As you would expect from a room full of lawyers, factual analysis and statistics were the first port of call for most of the debaters. Philip Cayford began with a statistic that two thirds of the general public think there is no difference between married life and those that cohabit. The social trend towards cohabitation has become increasingly more marked in recent years. Is this social change presenting a problem? The answer is clearly yes but what to do about it is not so easy to determine.
Much mirth was created with discussion of whether it is a good or a bad habit to live together. Under the current law, it was said that it is a dangerous one. Despite governmental efforts to educate our society on the current distinction that is drawn in law between those that cohabit and those that marry particularly as regards breakdown of the relationship, there is a woeful lack of understanding of people’s rights and responsibilities. Too many dangerous assumptions are made about how people will be treated and more often no consideration or thought is given to this at all.
Lord Lester’s consultation acknowledges that the definition alone of cohabitation, who to include, who not to and in what form is a difficult one. Is it appropriate to create another layer or group of people for whom there are defined rules distinct from other groups? The bill proposed by Lord Lester and Resolution certainly encourages us to embrace this proposal but doubts were expressed by the debaters’ and from the floor as to the workability of what was proposed.
Schedule 1 and TOLATA are well used by the specialist family lawyer in currently dealing with issues that arise for cohabitants together with the Family Law Act but it is by no means a complete and perfect package of provisions. Ultimately, it was promoted that successful societies need to adopt discipline in order to survive and a lack of it, by going along with the “bad habit” of cohabitation is contributing to the “broken society” view identified not least by our very own Justice Coleridge at the Resolution conference in Brighton in April of this year.
James Turner QC rebutted Philip Cayford QC with the words “do not trust statistics”. He entertained us with such lines as “far from cohabitation being bad, it’s a jolly good habit for very many people”. He argued that cohabitation offers greater stability and countered that the social problems arise from something other than the cohabitation. Relationship breakdown whether married or not is more to blame for our current difficulties.
Of course he quipped marriage would be a sad state of affairs without cohabitation! Some of the financial consequences of relationship breakdown are bad but not the cohabitation itself. The age old joke was rolled out “The institution of marriage - who wants to live in an institution?”
James Turner QC argued that instead of entering into marriage you simply need to make the contract of cohabitation binding. A contract properly drawn without undue influence between consenting adults, should simply be the end of the argument. The children have the same rights whether their parents are married or not. The lovely line “marriage is like a hot bath, once you get used to it, it is not so hot!” kept us on the light side of this serious topic and the case against the motion was rounded off with the saying about the three ringed circus that marriage creates: engagement ring, wedding ring, suffering.
Having heard from the persuasive silks it was the chance for Peter Mitchell and Harry Oliver to enter the sparing ring.
Peter Mitchell began by observing that cohabitation is indeed a very bad habit for matrimonial lawyers so why don’t we all vote now on the motion. Then he got down to the serious business of identifying what the words in the motion really meant before exploring the elusive answer. After poking fun at the definitions, he punched out at James Turner’s comment by saying it is the last refuge of a scoundrel to challenge statistics. He looked at research from the Bristol Community Family Trust which had looked at the wider concept of family groups. People in a cohabitation relationship were likely to lead less advantaged lives that would impact on school, work and well being. Marriage offers a more stable environment even with the poor divorce rates. Behavioural and emotional difficulties become ever more apparent in children at secondary school level. These and other findings are stark warnings to us regarding the trends in society. However, whilst academics can show clearly that marriage produces better outcomes, delivering that to the general public remains a real problem.
Peter then looked at the law reform proposals. If you begin with the premise that the current law is unfair it is understandable that we are now looking to see what the law can do to normalise matters. As had been said before, legislating however, provides no easy answers and the current proposal identifies problems in terms of its definition, how broadly it is applied and whether it includes carers, siblings etc. The next question the consultation asks us is should there be comparable rights or should there be a different layer with cohabitants having lesser rights than married couples. It was felt that the bill in its current form presented some muddled thinking in relation to these matters. Why create another institution when we already have marriage and civil partnership? By creating another set of rules and criteria it was argued we will simply replace one injustice with another.
Into the final round strode Harry Oliver with his highly colourful asset schedule designed to present the facts and figures in such a way that secures the win. He who goes last shall be first.
He said, surely if cohabitation is on the increase it gives rise to more fathers being at home as opposed to the one parent family arrangement? Of course there are many different types of cohabiting couples, there are those that are informed and those that are not, those that are reluctant and those that really get no choice in the matter. Trying to cater for all of these is a hard task for a new bill. The good thing about cohabitation is that a failed one saves the people in it from a failed marriage and so they save lots of expense on the wedding but they probably do still have to have a high level of expense with their lawyers!!
Harry presented quite an impressive list of “celebrities” who have cohabited successfully for many years. How far should our law go to protect those whom we regard as vulnerable? The current law is already designed to deal with the vulnerable sections of our society and trying to make it more complete and perfect will not be easy. Most of the debaters’ remembered poor Mrs Burns who came out of a 20 year relationship with nothing. Now of course she would do better so why do we need to change the law?
It was a surprise outcome after hearing all these views to find the eventual vote presided over by His Honour Judge Polden deciding that the motion for to cohabit is a bad habit won. Those who attended the debate were supportive of initiatives that help to inform and educate as opposed to more complex law making. It was Harry Oliver that reminded us all that a banner headline in the press had read a couple of years ago, “law commission recommends cohabitants to get the same rights as married people”. An awful lot of people now assume that this is already so. A search for the right answer is always a difficult one and to help us in our quest we all decided to adjourn to the Bar for some tempting canapés and alcoholic refreshment. There is no doubt that even if the bill under consultation does not make the statute book, this is an important subject meriting our attention and we are indebted to Resolution for the energy they bring to addressing such issues.
We had an overwhelming positive feedback from the delegates who enjoyed not only the style of the presentation and opportunity given to contribute to the debate but the chance to play their part in consultation over proposed reforms, that if made law, we have to deal with in practice. There was a suggestion for broader reform of family law but that would be an even greater undertaking.
L-R: Philip Cayford QC, James Turner QC, Harry Oliver, Dawn Harrison, His Honour Judge Polden, Peter Mitchell