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Dictionary of Private Children Law (2023) thumbnail image
The Dictionary of Private Children Law is a unique reference guide to the key concepts, cases, and practice of private children law. Its A4 format and targeted concise content makes it a unique model of accessibility and portability.

Presented in an easy to use A-Z format, with cross references where required, each entry acts like a practice note on the topic setting out the essential law, key cases, and practice points. The book distils the combined experience of the editors with the aim of providing a concise practical handbook focusing on the most important issues and practice points likely to be encountered by anybody involved in a private children law case. The intention is to achieve this aim for judges and practitioners working in the field, but also to provide a book sufficiently accessible for litigants acting without lawyers.

What's new for 2023?
  • Property Belonging to Children
  • ‘Appeals and Setting Aside Orders' entry has been split into 2 and expanded
Who will find the book useful?
  • Every family law solicitor, barrister or legal executive advising clients on disputes about children after divorce or separation
  • Family Court Judges
  • Mediators, Arbitrators, and other professionals involved in out of court dispute resolution
  • McKenzie Friends and litigants in person

Page count: 115

'Here you have at your fingertips a well-written and user-friendly guide to the essential aspects of the subject, organised in a clear and carefully-structured fashion to enable the reader to find the relevant law in the blink of an eye.'

The Rt Hon Lord Justice Baker

'I am delighted to have been asked to write a short Foreword to the first edition of this excellent new work … its style and format make it an invaluable tool for anyone needing a pithy summary of the relevant law. The number of entries illustrates the astonishingly wide range of issues that arise in private children law. On behalf of the readers of this work, I have road tested the dictionary by reference to a random list of topics and have found it to be succinct, clear and informative ... I congratulate Judge Hess and his colleagues on this invaluable addition to the family law library.'

The Rt Hon Lord Justice Baker

'Practical people need reliable tools and the Dictionary of Private Children Law is an invaluable addition to the toolbox.'

The Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Baker

Abduction Outside the UK
Abduction Within the UK
Activity Directions and Conditions
Allocation, Gatekeeping and Transfer of Proceedings
Applicants and Applications
Cafcass Monitoring
Capability of Parents
Change of Living Arrangements
Child Arrangements Orders (General)
Child Arrangements Orders (‘Live With’ Provision)
Child Arrangements Orders (‘Spend Time With’/‘Have Contact With’ Provision)
Child Arrangements Programme (CAP)
Child Giving Evidence
Child’s Age, Sex, Background and Other Relevant Characteristics
Child’s Needs
Children’s Guardian and the Child as a Party
Civil Restraint Orders
Coercive and Controlling Behaviour
Compensation Orders
Consent Orders
Contact: General Principles
Death of Children
Dispute Resolution Appointment (DRA)
Domestic Abuse
Effect of Change (Status Quo)
Enforcement and Enforcement Orders
Expert Evidence
Fact-Finding Hearings
Family Assistance Orders
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA)
Forced Marriage
Habitual Residence
Hague Convention 1996
Harm and Risk of Harm
Independent Social Workers
Interim Orders and Interim Hearings
Intractable Contact Disputes
Judges Meeting Children
Judicial Bias and Recusal
Legal Aid
McKenzie Friends
Media Attendance and Reporting
Mediation and ADR
Medical Examination and Treatment
Mental Capacity
Names of Children
No Order Principle
Non-Parental Contact
Overriding Objective
Parentage and DNA Testing
Parental Alienation
Parental Involvement Presumption
Parental Responsibility: Acquisition and Loss
Parental Responsibility: Definition and Scope
Parental Status and Legitimacy
Port Alerts and Tipstaff Orders (Passport, Location and Collection Orders)
Prohibited Steps Orders
Property Belonging to Children
Publicity and Confidentiality
Recognition and Enforcement of Orders
Relocation Outside the UK: Holidays
Relocation Outside the UK: Permanent Moves
Relocation Within the UK
Risk Assessment
Section 37 Direction
Section 91(14) Orders
Security for Costs
Setting Aside, Variation, Rescission and Reopening
Special Guardianship Orders
Specific Issue Orders
Step-Parent Adoption
Supervised and Supported Contact
Terrorism and Radicalisation
Wardship and the Inherent Jurisdiction
Warning Notices and Penal Notices
Welfare Checklist
Welfare Reports
Welfare: Paramountcy Principle
Wishes and Feelings of the Child
Withdrawal of Applications
Without Notice Applications

Writing dictionaries is dull work, said Dr Johnson. The result of his labours is, however, anything but dull, and the same is true of the Dictionary of Private Children Law. Here you have at your fingertips a well-written and user-friendly guide to the essential aspects of the subject, organised in a clear and carefully-structured fashion to enable the reader to find the relevant law in the blink of an eye. And whereas Dr Johnson toiled for nine years to produce his magnum opus, the editors of this work are to be congratulated for producing a third edition in as many years.

In the Introduction to last year’s edition, I observed that Covid 19 had left us with a very significant backlog of private children law cases. In fact, HMCTS statistics have now demonstrated that the rise in the backlog started before the pandemic. There are at present over 85,000 children in outstanding private law cases. In 2017, there were just 30,000. Although the figures increased dramatically after March 2020, they were already going in the wrong direction before that date. Reducing these numbers is going to take very considerable efforts by everyone, in particular the judiciary and government. At the time of writing, new proposals are imminently expected from the Ministry of Justice for tackling the backlog and reducing the number of children coming into the system. Meanwhile, the pressures are being keenly felt by all those working in the system but above all by the families waiting for their cases to be resolved. One way in which courts can address the problem is by ensuring that litigation is confined to those issues necessary to resolve the dispute. Litigants and their lawyers can therefore expect judges at first instance to continue to adopt a rigorous approach to case management and appellate courts to support them: see for a recent example Re N (A Child) (Instruction of Expert) [2022] EWCA Civ 1588.

The last year saw further developments in the family court’s treatment of domestic abuse, including coercive and controlling behaviour. Following its decision the previous year in Re H-N and others [2021] EWCA Civ 448, the Court of Appeal returned to the issue and provided further guidance in Re K [2022] EWCA Civ 468. Meanwhile, implementation of the reforms instigated by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 has continued. Foremost amongst them has been the prohibition of cross-examination of alleged victims by alleged perpetrators and appointment by the court of qualified legal representatives (“QLRs”) to conduct cross-examination in such circumstances if the parties are unrepresented. This reform was widely welcomed by judges and lawyers when finally enacted after years of campaigning. As often the case with statutory schemes, however, the devil is in the detail. It remains to be seen whether the scheme as currently structured produces QLRs in sufficient numbers to meet the likely demand for their services.

In other developments in the past 12 months, readers should be aware of the continued progress of the HMCTS reform project and the gradual extension of digitised processes throughout the family justice system. Meanwhile, the steady progress of reform continues in the reporting of family proceedings instigated by the President following his Transparency Review. A year-long pilot is now underway in Carlisle, Cardiff and Leeds. One aspiration behind these reforms is that, by allowing some sunlight into the family court, the myth of the secret court may be at last dispelled. At present publicity is largely confined to the most serious and difficult cases, notably applications for orders authorising the withdrawal of treatment from seriously ill children. Sometimes they attract enormous publicity, sometimes not. Last year, the tragic case of Archie Battersbee fell into the former category and led to a series of applications to courts in this jurisdiction and the ECtHR, including Barts Health NHS Trust v Dance and Battersbee [2022] EWCA Civ 935. One aim of the President’s policy of greater transparency is to inform the public about the day-to-day workings of the court to provide a more balanced picture of what we do.

Of other cases in the field last year, I would single out Re B (A Child) (Adequacy of Reasons) [2022] EWCA Civ 407, in which Peter Jackson LJ gave guidance on what should be included in a judgment in children’s cases and how such a judgment should be structured. This guidance is useful not only to judges but also to advocates seeking to tailor their submissions in a way that judges will find both attractive and helpful. The succinct and focused position statement or skeleton argument is of immense value to the judge. Sadly such documents are less common in private children law, where legal representation is increasingly the exception not the rule.

Lawyers know life practically, said Johnson. That may not be true of all lawyers, and certainly not all judges (“Who are the Beatles?”) But it is certainly true of family lawyers. Practical people need reliable tools and the Dictionary of Private Children Law is an invaluable addition to the toolbox.

The Rt Hon Lord Justice Baker | 9 February 2023

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Dictionary of Private Children Law (2023) thumbnail image

Zoe Saunders

Dictionary of Private Children Law (2023) thumbnail image

Piers Pressdee KC

Dictionary of Private Children Law (2023) thumbnail image

Professor Rob George