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Exclusive festive 'long read': Six 2023 family cases that were…different

Dec 12, 2023

In his final blog of the year ahead of the Christmas and new year festivities, blogger John Bolch presents six family law cases which make for an interesting and entertaining read. So pull up a chair, grab a cuppa, a mince pie (or two) and enjoy this exclusive article...

As anyone who is foolish enough to study them will know, family law cases normally follow quite familiar scenarios. But occasionally a judgment will crop up that is a little different to the norm.

As a change from the usual ‘most important family cases of the year’ articles that are so popular each December I thought I might draw the reader’s attention to six cases from 2023 that were not necessarily that important but were simply… different.

I have divided the cases into three categories. The first two come under the ‘sad’ category: cases with a subject that is serious but also both sad and uncommon.

The second category I designate ‘bad behaviour’, albeit the behaviour in each of the two cases was of a quite different nature. Finally, the last two cases come under the ‘weird and wonderful’ category, being cases involving facts, or lack of facts, that are unusual, to say the least.

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It is perhaps not generally known that the jurisdiction of the Family Division extends to matters that are not directly related to family breakdown or the welfare of children.

One rare visitor to the annals of family law judgments is the Presumption of Death Act 2013. As its long title explains, the Act was passed to make provision in relation to the presumed death of missing persons.

Specifically, the Act enables a person to apply to the High Court for a declaration that a missing person is presumed to be dead, where the person is thought to have died, or where they have not been known to be alive for a period of at least 7 years.

And in the case Thomas (Re: David Horton Cann) the applicant applied for such a declaration in respect of her brother, David Cann.

As Mr Justice Moor, hearing the case, said, the facts of the case were sad and, in some respects, slightly perplexing.

Mr Cann went on holiday to Turkey on the 26th of June 2019. He was due to return to this country on the 4th of July. On the morning of the 2nd of July he told fellow guests in the hotel where he was staying that he was going to go on a hike. There was no indication whatsoever of anything wrong in his life.

He set out on the hike but never returned. On the 4th of July he failed to check in for his flight home and, because of this, the applicant and others raised the alarm. Five different search parties were sent out to try to find him.

There was an intensive search, but absolutely nothing was discovered whatsoever. His passport was, however, found in his hotel room, indicating that he was not deliberately intending to disappear.

Considering the evidence, Moor J was satisfied that Mr Cann had died, and made the declaration accordingly.

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It is not that unusual for an application to be made to terminate the parental responsibility of a father who was not married to the mother. But what was unusual about the case Re GF (A Minor) was that it was the father himself who was making the application.

The application was made in respect of a child born in 2012. She was made subject to a care order in 2015 and the father’s contact with her stopped. He applied for a contact order, but the child indicated that she did not wish to see her father.

The father then applied to terminate his parental responsibility for the child, to reflect that he has no present relationship with her.

Hearing the application Judge Levey discussed with the father how the application would look from his daughter’s point of view, but the father was adamant that he wished to proceed.

Judge Levey concluded that it could not be in accordance with the welfare of a child for a father to hold parental responsibility if he does not wish to, and therefore made the order that the father sought.

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It is a classic tale: a husband has an affair with another woman, regrets it, and tries to make amends with his wife.

But in the case CG v DL the amends were on a rather grander scale than the average case. The husband made a payment of £1 million to the wife.

Perhaps not unexpectedly the marriage subsequently failed, and the question arose as to how the court should treat that payment in the divorce settlement.

The wife argued that she should keep the payment, and the husband argued that it should be shared, along with the other matrimonial assets.

The judge agreed with the wife, saying that whilst the money was a matrimonial asset, the circumstances of its giving were highly relevant. There was no need for the husband to share in it, and it was fair to both parties that the wife should be entitled to keep it in its entirety, as was intended when it was given to her.

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In the case Re P (a child) (dismissal of application – abusive applicant), the bad behaviour of the father was of an entirely different nature.

The case involved various matters, but the main issue was the father’s application for contact with his child.

In the course of the proceedings the father bombarded everyone else involved with abusive messages, including the mother, the mother’s solicitor, Cafcass and court staff.

The father had also bombarded the court with numerous applications, most of which were totally without merit.

Now, it is not at all unusual for a father to become frustrated with the court process, and even to believe that the entire system is biased against him, but the behaviour of this father went way beyond what might usually be expected.

Needless to say, it did not go well for the father. The judge not only dismissed his application, but also made an extended civil restraint order against him, preventing him from making any further application to the court for a period of two years.

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Moving on to the weird and wonderful category, we come to the case (or, more accurately, ‘cases’) concerning the Right Honourable Steven Lord Lloyd-Bagrationi (as he describes himself), which were certainly… different.

Mr Lloyd-Bagrationi lives in the Republic of Georgia. He, and initially his sister, were seeking a declaration that they are the children of The Right Honourable Lord Stephen Henry Lloyd, who died in 1971.

You see, Mr Lloyd-Bagrationi claimed that his father was a member of the British royal family (in addition to his mother apparently being a member of the Georgian royal family). The declaration would therefore presumably make him also a British royal.

But the main purpose of the application was rather more prosaic: to establish his paternity as a route to obtaining British citizenship.

The problem for Mr Lloyd-Bagrationi was that he could not produce any reliable evidence that his father was born in, lived in, or had any connection with England and Wales or any other part of the UK.

The court therefore did not have jurisdiction to make the declaration, and accordingly the application was dismissed.

Not content with this, Mr Lloyd-Bagrationi then made a similar application to a different court in England, in the hope that a different judge would come to a different conclusion. Unsurprisingly that application was struck out as being totally without merit.

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The last case is Ezinne Uchechukwu-Onwubiko v Ihedinma Onwubiko & Others.

The applicant, Mrs Ezinne Uchechukwu-Onwubiko, was (or at least thought she was) the fifth wife of the late Mr Uchechukwu-Onwubiko.

The respondent, Mrs Ihedinma Onwubiko, was the second wife of Mr Uchechukwu-Onwubiko.

The applicant sought a declaration that her marriage was a valid marriage, that the marriage between the deceased and the respondent did not subsist at the date of her marriage to the deceased, and that she was therefore the surviving spouse and next of kin of the deceased.

Unfortunately for the applicant, the court found that the marriage of the respondent and the deceased had never been ended by a valid divorce. Accordingly, the marriage between the applicant and the deceased was also not valid.

Which meant, remarkably, that the deceased’s marriages to wives three, four and five were all bigamous.

 


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