It is difficult to overstate the additional challenges faced by the surviving authors and editors as a result of the death of Sir Peter Singer in the weeks preceding the publication of the previous edition, challenges which are still – and if anything in even greater number – faced in this second edition without him at the helm. He has been sorely missed, although the puns which have infiltrated the prefaces of previous editions perhaps slightly less so.
While the country has continued to be preoccupied with Brexit (now, seemingly ‘done’), there has been some progress in relation to the stalled family law reforms so urgently brought forward in the wake of the decision of the Supreme Court in Owens in July 2018 (Owens v Owens  UKSC 41). The no fault divorce aspects will, it seems, be legislated during the lifetime of this edition – although whether they are also implemented and brought into force in that same timeframe must be doubtful. Baroness Deech has yet again introduced her Bill proposing dramatic reform of the substantive law of financial remedies: it received its first reading on 21 January 2020, but it remains to be seen whether there is sufficient political appetite and parliamentary time for it to become law.
Speaking of Brexit, the passage of the legislation to implement the ‘deal’ and ‘transition period’ serves to put on hold the revocation and repeal of the current pan-European legislation as applied in England and Wales so, for 2020 at least, it is business as before. Quite what will replace the current arrangements will, like so much else, have to be resolved in what remains of this year.
For the first time since this publication has been in print, there have been, as at January 2020, no Family Procedure (Amendment) Rules since the previous edition. Nevertheless, there has been no shortage of important and far reaching developments discussed and explained in the extensively rewritten commentary to the Rules as applied to financial remedy proceedings.
The national roll-out of the Financial Remedies Court (FRC) project is almost complete, with procedural implications discussed, in particular, in Chapters 5 and 9. Practitioners will be pleased to see that their own wellbeing is, perhaps for the first time, explicitly a consideration in timetabling and expectations of responses to communications and correspondence. Private FDRs are explicitly to be encouraged not just for the greater good of the parties, but for the greater good of the over- stretched courts. The imposition of new page limits on certain classes of preparatory documents – in particular a four-page limit on questionnaires – will challenge prolixity and reward succinctness. As will the ambition that all orders shall be agreed before the parties leave court or, failing that, lodged with the court within two days of any hearing in the FRC.
The new procedure described in paragraph 5.52 for the online filing of consensual financial remedy orders for court approval should reduce the delay in that approval by around 90% (from a disgraceful 3 to 5 months to an entirely acceptable 1 to 2 weeks). A Pilot Scheme is underway of paperless (i.e. online) applications for contested financial remedies, and while necessarily limited in both geographical scope and types of applications, it is a welcome step to both speeding up and greening up the practice of financial remedy cases.
Arbitration in financial remedy cases continues its oh-so-slow progress as a mainstream alternative to in-court litigation, and Chapter 3 sets out some important developments in relation to appeals against and challenges to arbitral awards. This has included a reconsideration of the established practice that a challenge to an arbitral award should be by a ‘notice to show cause’, and a detailed consideration of the limited circumstances in which such an award can be challenged.
Whilst there is every appearance that – at least in the eyes of the Government and of a large swathe of the electorate – Brexit will be ‘done’ by the end of 2020, the same can hardly be said of the enforcement and implementation of the order of Haddon-Cave J in 2016 in Akhmedova v Akhmedov (AAZ v BBZ & Ors  EWHC 3361 (Fam)). Mrs Akhmedova’s dogged determination to enforce at least some of the then (and still) record award of £453,576,152 seems to be matched only by her ex-husband’s determination that she shall not do so. The case that just keeps on giving (at least to the advisers engaged in it) features heavily in Chapters 20 and 21, and elsewhere in a one-woman crusade to test and deploy every rule and procedure for enforcement. Her award is to be contrasted, perhaps, with the short shrift given to Mrs Potanina in her quest to obtain a fair award after what she contended was an unfair determination of her claims in the Russian courts, as discussed in Chapter 8 (Potanin v Potanina  EWHC 2956 (Fam)), signalling, possibly, a move towards more frequent inter partes hearing of applications for permission to apply for an award under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984.
Two perennial judicial bugbears – unnecessary ‘urgent’ applications and attempts to reargue cases after receipt of a draft judgment – are given a thorough work out in Chapters 20 and 30, respectively. Urgent applications are not to be confused with applications made without notice and can only be made in situations where there is actual urgency as a result of something that has just happened. Draft judgments are released for the identification and correction of typographical and similar errors, not to provide an opportunity for some reasons to be canvassed seeking to change the substantive determination.
The current year will see the fruits of the now closed consultation on costs in financial remedy proceedings, and maybe even the reintroduction of Calderbank letters or something similar.
All of this, and much more, is summarised and discussed in the significantly rewritten commentary, which we once again hope will accessibly illustrate the continuing process of change in this area of family litigation.