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18 AUG 2010

Penny Booth: It's that time of year again...

Penny BoothMid-August and the papers are full of doom and failure - I wish it was because it is traditionally regarded as the slack time for news in the UK.

Quite rightly, it is being said that the cuts in public services will hit us all in various ways and that by ‘hit' we mean badly and detrimentally - and ‘it shouldn't happen' kind of detrimentally, too. This includes legal services, Amandeep Gill discussed in her last opinion piece.                                       

Of course, the public perception of lawyers (practitioners especially) is not always complimentary, so any apparent loss of money by lawyers and ‘lawyering' will not necessarily be seen as ‘bad'. Just wait until you have a problem in your family that needs the help of a practitioner. At the rate we are going, who will want to practice family law anyway? It's only the very rich who seem to attract media attention yet much family practice is for people who can barely afford to seek what we regard as essential - good legal advice in the wake of personal disaster.

Delay and indecision, failure to obtain advice and increasing rates of relationship failure with children attached all mean that advice will be sought in the wake. If it isn't there at a price that can be afforded, the consequences will be paid for in the future - housing problems, children in care, low-level employment, unemployment, and damaged pasts with potentially damaged futures. That's neither good spending nor wise saving in my view.

Even the summer holidays seem to lack some joy for families - what does one do with the kids when they are on holiday and you are not? Grandparents are always a good bet, but even they have their own lives to lead, and are not necessarily available. Well, according to The Sunday Times on 15 August (Review, page 9) many ambitious parents solve the holidays ‘problem' (?) by keeping their children studying through the summer period with private tutors. What happened to family visits to local heritage sites, making full use of the local library, games in the park and relaxation?

Seems it is the time of the year for abductions, too - and Jeremy Browne, Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister for Consular Policy, said: "International parental child abduction, whether intentional or not, can cause huge distress to families.

"Cases of parental child abduction increase in the summer holiday period. We also see cases where British nationals simply return to the UK with their child after their relationship breaks down whilst living abroad - this is still likely to be considered abduction. A parent will normally require the consent of the other parent and possibly permission from the courts of the country concerned. It is important that a parent obtains legal advice before taking any action."

So - from where will they obtain the legal help if there are no family lawyers and legal aid has been reduced still further. Mmmmm, must ponder.

Finally - the A level results are out, and yet again Mount Everest is getting smaller (more people are climbing it, see?) and standards are dropping. For some, even when it's a success, it's a failure.

Penny Booth is running the Great North Run for Age UK on 19 September, 2010. This is a half marathon and should she manage to complete the 13.1 miles then please coinsider giving a donation to Age Uk via www.justgiving.com/PennyBooth

Penny Booth is an Honorary Research Fellow at Liverpool University Centre for the Study of the Child, the Family and the Law. Click here to follow Penny Booth on Twitter.

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.

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