Man goes to Court of Appeal to question legality of his marriage

An academic embroiled in a legal battle with his estranged wife has continued to press the case that they were in fact never legally married.

Khaled Hayatleh, who lectures at Oxford Brookes University, had split from his wife Reem Mofdy after she had attacked him in 2012. She had been convicted of common assault following the incident, which had arisen because she suspected Mr Hayatleh of infidelity.

Both parties filed for divorce the following year.

However, the pair continue to be locked in court proceedings over the £1million property they had shared in Oxford.

The 50-year-old professor has maintained that the home, which is in the popular suburb of Sunnymead, should not be taken into consideration when it comes to the divorce settlement.

He has also protested that the couple had actually never been validly married, suggesting there were no authenticated supporting documents.

A Judge had previously dismissed the claim that their union was somehow invalid, but Mr Hayatleh hopes to have this ruling overturned by the Court of Appeal.

The lecturer did not not attend the pair’s arranged marriage, which took place in Syria 17 years ago. He chose for his brother to stand in for him at the ceremony, which is a legal practice under Syrian law.

When Mr Hayatleh and his wife moved to the UK they underwent a face-to-face ceremony in Oxfordshire

Peter Martin, Head of our Family Team comments:  “The question of the validity of the marriage could be of crucial importance in deciding the issues on finances.  It is an issue with arranged marriages and marriages outside the UK, particularly where there a very different customs, which oftem needs to be resolved.”

The Appeal Court judges have reserved their decision and will give a ruling at a later date.

For further information about this update then please contact Peter Martin,  on 020 8349 0321 or by email.

Employment Tribunal awards officer more than £400,000

A police firearms officer is to receive a six-figure payout after successfully taking a race discrimination claim to Tribunal.

Nadeem Saddique will receive £457,664 following a two-day remedy hearing, which concluded earlier this week.

Last year, a Judge had ruled that PC Saddique had been victimised by both senior officers and colleagues at Cleveland Police.

During previous proceedings, the 45-year-old officer – who had formerly been tasked with protecting VIPs – had encountered “a culture of bullying and discrimination” in the firearms department.

The Tribunal had heard claims that one colleague had an English Defence League (EDL) sticker on the holster of his weapon.

PC Saddique – the only Asian member of the team – had also felt that he had been unfairly removed from VIP duties.

At the remedy hearing, it had been suggested that there was an “old guard” in professional standards who failed to take race discrimination seriously and this attitude had led to those who complained being branded “liars” or “money grabbers.”

Cleveland Police had insisted the force had learned lessons and was making “comprehensive efforts” to tackle inequality and improve diversity.

Doctors have ruled that PC Saddique is unable to return to work with the police and after signing off work in 2014 he has experienced insomnia and problems eating.

Speaking after the hearing, he said: “This has been a lengthy and extremely difficult process, which has taken a serious toll on my health and my family.”

“I never wanted it to go as far as a Tribunal, but after experiencing problems with discrimination for a number of years within the force and exhausting all avenues internally without success, I had to do something.”

For further information about this update please contact Susan Bernstein, Partner in our Employment team, on 020 8349 0321 or by email.

Britain set to opt in to new family law regulations

The Ministry of Justice has argued that the UK should opt into EU regulations relating to cross-border family law matters.

The European Commission has outlined plans to implement a new framework to help couples resolve disputes relating to those divorce proceedings and childcare which straddle international borders.

The system will replace the Brussels IIA regulation, which has been applied to cases of this nature for the past 11 years.

Sir Oliver Heald, the Justice Minister, made the case that it was in Britain’s interests to opt into the proposal.

In a ministerial statement released last week, he said that there were concerns that if the regulations took effect before Britain’s departure from the EU (expected to take place in 2019) there could be potential problems if the country had chosen not to sign-up to the proposal.

“This might mean for a period of time no EU instrument regulates these matters for UK families even though the UK is still a member state,” he said.

“Secondly, even after a UK exit the regulation will affect UK citizens, principally in other member states, and it is in the UK’s interests to influence the negotiations.”

The framework is being designed to provide clearer deadlines for certain processes and streamline the system for enforcing judgments in different member states.

There will also be revisions to the rules for dealing with child abduction cases which involve multiple jurisdictions.

Since the regulation will apply across 28 different nations there are likely to be extensive negotiations as to how the system will be integrated with domestic courts.

Children could be left without legal guardianship if parents do not write a will

A new study suggests that more than half of UK parents have not made a will – effectively leaving their children without legal guardianship in the event of an unexpected death.

Parents are being warned that, without appointing a guardian for their dependents, a guardian will be appointed for their children by a Court in the event of a death – which may be a person neither related to nor previously known to their children.

Parents are strongly advised not to assume that a Court will automatically grant custody to uncles, aunts, grandparents or relations.

Furthermore, without an air-tight will in place, parents are advised that they are unable to determine exactly what will happen to their assets upon death – or to specify what their children will be entitled to.

In a recent survey, 53 per cent of parents admitted to having no will in place – while 13 per cent claimed that they thought leaving behind a will was unnecessary.

Despite the rate of unexpected and early deaths on the rise, 19 per cent added that they considered themselves ‘too young’ to write a will.

A further 21 per cent said that they thought the key purpose of a will was to secure the future of assets, and that their assets were not substantial enough to require a will.

Ex-wife claims increase in maintenance above the £100,000 she receives now

A woman has demanded additional money from her former husband to maintain a “reasonable standard of living.”

Ekaterina Fields had previously been awarded £3.3million in assets, in addition to annual maintenance payments, as part of her divorce settlement, which was agreed by Mr Justice Holman last year.

The package had been put together so that she had sufficient funds to continue living in the Kensington and Chelsea area of London and to support the couple’s two children.

It included an annual payment of £100,000 which was designed to help Mrs Fields build up her own savings.

But the Russian-born former beauty queen, who split from her husband Richard five years ago, has gone back to court after arguing that the sum is not a sufficient amount to support her in later life.

Mr Fields has insisted the original settlement is fair and revealed that, in actual fact, he was preparing to make an application to have the maintenance payments reduced because of a downturn in his income.

Lady Justice Black, sitting in the Court of Appeal, last week adjourned the case for further evidence to be heard at a later date.

For further information about this update then please contact Peter Martin, head of our family law team, on 020 8349 0321 or by email.

Campaign follows concerns not enough people consider mediation

A week-long campaign to make the case for using mediation in family law proceedings is officially underway.

UK Mediation Awareness Week will be used to argue the advantages of using a mediator to resolve disputes rather than launching straight into traditional court proceedings.

An official website, set up to publicise the event, makes the case that the process has the potential to be quicker and less costly than litigation.

The campaign has the backing of a number of influential bodies including the Family Mediation Council, the Law Society and the College of Mediators.

It was revealed earlier this year that only one in five couples going through the divorce process are considering the option of mediation proceedings.

In 2014, a change in rules effectively made Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) compulsory for those going through a separation.

But figures published by the Ministry of Justice showed that over a 12 month period, in which some 18,000 private applications were made to the family court, just 4,000 MIAMs took place.

Jane Robey, the chief executive of National Family Mediation, said that the figures show the rule changes introduced by the Government two years ago had not achieved the desired aim of promoting alternatives to court.

For further information about this update then please contact Peter Martin, head of our family law team, on 020 8349 0321 or by email.

Hopes campaign will improve coverage of family cases

A legal charity has this week unveiled a new campaign to tackle some of the misconceptions that can arise as a result of inaccurate reporting of family law cases.

The Transparency Project has launched Family Court Reporting Watch, monitoring press coverage of divorce proceedings and other related areas of the law.

The charity is concerned about the problems that inaccurate or misleading articles may have on people’s perceptions.

It hopes to build a positive relationship with the media and will encourage news organisations to publish corrections or link to primary sources if it believes that certain reports paint an inaccurate picture.

The organisation also welcomes comments from the public about cases they have read either in newspapers or online and found either “surprising or confusing.”

Lucy Reed, who chairs the charity, said: “Family law is generally poorly understood by the public (and the media).

“Because family courts operate largely in private, media reports about them are an important route through which the public acquire their understanding of family law and procedure (along with the internet) – they cannot attend court in the way that is possible in other areas.

“However, much mainstream news and media reporting of family court cases is legally confused, factually highly selective or inaccurate. Although many judgments are publicly available, only cases with certain “newsworthy” characteristics reach the attention of the media.”

The Transparency Project was set up two years ago amid wider concerns that public understanding of the way family courts operate was often lacking.

The charity is comprised of interested parties including practising lawyers, academics, social workers, publishers and writers.

For further information about this update then please contact Peter Martin, head of our family law team, on 020 8349 0321 or by email.