On 10th November, family lawyers gathered at the Copthorne Tara Hotel in Kensington for the 2015 Children Law and Practice conference, sponsored by 1 Garden Court Family Law Chambers.
The conference was hosted by Susan Jacklin QC and the agenda for the day included an array of excellent speakers covering a wide range of children law topics. The morning was kicked off with a session by 1 Garden Court’s Patrick Paisley in conjunction with Susan Jacklin QC, discussing Schedule 1 Children Act applications. Covering the most up to date case law,including MG and JG v JF and JFG  EWHC 564 (Fam), this session had something for everyone. As the speakers noted, Schedule 1 is not just for ‘big money’ cases, citing for example DE v AB (Financial Provision for Child)  EWHC 3792 (Fam) where the father was ordered to sell his home in order to release the equity of around £350,000 for use by the mother to buy a home and discharge her debts.
The second session was taken by Dr Bryn Williams, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Director at Williams Independent Psychological Consultancy. Dr Williams gave a psychologist’s view of the capacity of parents to change. Interestingly, he noted that this issue is often more complex in private law cases than public law cases. He also commented on the huge damage that can be done to children who experience lack of love and interest from their parents, often greater than the damage done by physical abuse. Dr Williams’ session was interspersed with anonymised stories about the people he had worked with, bringing the session to life and providing a refreshing take on this complex issue.
In the final morning session, Deirdre Fottrell QC presented an update on Private Children Law bringing us fully up to date with case law and recent developments, including issues around funding of cases post LASPO (for example, Re K and H  EWCA Civ 543) and ending with the tricky issues arising in surrogacy matters including the recent case of X v Y (St Bartholomew’s Hospital Centre for Reproductive Medicine Intervening)  EWFC 13 and the subsequent case In the matter of HFEA 2008 (Cases A – H Declarations of Parentage) EWFC 2602 in which many families were affected by anomalies brought to light in procedures at surrogacy clinics which had the potential to impact on the legality of their family relationships. A very insightful update for all.
After a lovely lunch courtesy of the Copthorne Tara Hotel, we returned to a session on International Recognition of Children taken by Janet Bazely QC and Eleri Jones, barrister at 1 Garden Court. Covering a range of issues including habitual residence, child arrangements across borders and EU child maintenance decisions, the speakers managed to deal with this topic comprehensively, bringing us right up to date with case law including drawing our attention to the awaited Court of Appeal decision in AA v BB  EWHC 4210 (Fam) which was due to be handed down two days later on 12th November.
In the penultimate session, Harcourt Chambers’ Dr Rob George and Frances Judd QC presented a session on International Relocation. In this tricky area, they followed through the developments from the relatively stable position following Payne v Payne  1 FLR 1052 to the recent position of increasing uncertainty following Re F (International Relocation Cases) EWCA Civ 882. Posing the question of whether the Court of Appeal is “speaking with one voice” in its approach to relocation cases the session finished with the cautionary note that Re F (International Relocation Cases) is unlikely to be the final word and practitioners need to remain up to date on this fast moving area.
The final session of the day was taken by 1 Garden Court’s Alison Moore who gave us an update on Public Children Law. With topics ranging from Vulnerable Witnesses through to Jurisdiction and finishing with a comprehensive update on Adoption, including recent cases such as Re G (A Child)  EWCA Civ 119 and Re M’P-P (Children) EWCA Civ 584, this session brought us right up to date with the law in this area.
All in all an action-packed and informative conference featuring an array of excellent speakers and covering a range of important and often complex practice areas.