Couples facing delays of 59 weeks to get a divorce through the courts

Separated couples are facing a record wait to get divorced as a result of regional divorce centres trying to process a backlog of older cases, it has been revealed.

Quarterly statistics covering January to March 2019, published by the Ministry of Justice today, show that the average time from petition to decree absolute is 59 weeks. The average time from petition to decree nisi is 33 weeks – up six weeks from last year. The ministry says the figures ‘represent the highest figures so far for the periods covered by this bulletin, and is a result of divorce centres processing a backlog of older cases’.

Cyrus Mansouri, head of family law at Mansouri & Son Solicitors, said ‘the figures were shocking & disappointing but not surprising to those working in the family justice system. The Ministry of Justice introduced the new regional court system to solve the previous backlog, but what has been created is significantly worse than the system we had before.’

It is shocking that divorcing couples, including those who have no real dispute between them except that they want a divorce, are facing delays of six months simply to reach the decree nisi stage. This is made all the more frustrating because financial orders cannot be submitted to the court until this stage’.

A question mark hangs over the future of the 11 regional divorce centres, which have been heavily criticised by senior family judges.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the family division, told practitioners this year that the centres ‘have not worked well’. Days later his predecessor, Sir James Munby, said in a family court judgment that the centres had become ‘bywords for delay and inefficiency, essentially because HMCTS has been unable or unwilling to furnish them with adequate numbers of staff and judges’.

Last month McFarlane revealed that the centres were being phased out and replaced by an online system based in the new national Civil and Family Service Centre at Stoke on Trent.

Guidance on the meaning of ‘Very Compelling Circumstances’ in Deportation Cases

‘Very Compelling Circumstances’ requirement in Deportation Cases

The Court of Appeal has upheld the appeal against deportation of a man sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, and has also provided some good examples of the kind of human rights arguments that judges will accept in this complex and difficult area of law.

The court repeated that there is a high threshold that applies when a non-EEA citizen who has been sentenced to a period of imprisonment of four or more years tries to fight deportation. In this case the Court of Appeal judges refused to overturn the First-tier Tribunal’s finding that the threshold had been met. Usually deportation almost automatically follows when a non-EEA citizen has received a custodial sentence of 4 or more years. The only was around this had been for appellants to prove that they had ‘very compelling circumstances’. But nobody knew what that meant, or at least not until now, that the Court of Appeal has provided some assistance to lawyers and judges to assess what ‘very compelling circumstances’ actually means.

The case is Secretary of State for the Home Department v JG (Jamaica)[2019] EWCA Civ 982. You can download a copy of the judgement from the link or alternatively just read on for a summary of what this is all about.

The First-tier Tribunal had allowed a Jamaican citizen’s appeal against deportation due to his “intense” bond with his British child and the emotional and psychological damage that child would suffer if his father, who was the child’s primary carer, was deported. The Home Office appealed, but was ultimately unsuccessful as the First-tier Tribunal judge had conducted the structured analysis required by the relevant legal provisions and reached a decision which was “reasonably open to him on the evidence” (paragraph 32).

The automatic deportation regime applies to any non-EEA national sentenced to at least a year in prison. If the sentence is between one year and four years then deportation will not be in the public interest where certain exceptions apply, one of which is where the effect of deportation would be unduly harsh for a relevant child.

Those sentenced to four years in prison or longer, have an even higher threshold to jump and need to show that there are “very compelling circumstances, over and above” deportation being unduly harsh. That means their reasons need to prove that it is ‘unduly harsh, and more’! Or to put it in other words that it would be “extra unduly harsh”.

The Court of Appeal described the test to be applied by judges in this judgement at paragraph 16 as follows:

The upshot of those decisions, so far as concerns the present case, is that in so far as the Respondent sought to rely on the effect of his deportation on his son (who, being a British citizen, was a qualifying child) it would not be enough to show that that effect would be “unduly harsh”, in the sense explained in KO. That would satisfy Exception 1, but because his case fell within section 117C (6) he needed to show something over and above that, which meant showing that the circumstances in his case were, in Jackson LJ’s phrase in NA, “especially compelling”. In short, at the risk of sounding flippant, he needed to show that the impact on his son was “extra unduly harsh”.

The adverse or negative impact that removal of a parent will generally have on the well-being of any child is not enough. There needs to be something more. This does not need to be something different and separate to the impact on the child (or partner). However some additional feature is necessary.

In this case, that additional feature was the specific psychological damage which the child would suffer if his father was deported. There was evidence of this produced to the court in the form of medical documents. As the Court of Appeal put it at paragraph 35 the their judgement:

The very compelling circumstances on which he relied were, essentially, the severity of the harm that [the child] was likely to suffer if the Respondent were deported.

The case does not make new law for us in this area but it does explain how this very high threshold in these types of deportation cases needs to be met and, what types of evidence the judges ought to be looking at.

English law is made up of core principles which on first reading may appear perfectly clear. But when you come to apply them, you often find that different people interpret different words to have similar, yet different meanings and applications. With this judgement at least lawyers and judges in future have a slightly clearer idea of how they are meant to interpret the words ‘very compelling circumstances’ in relation to deportation of non-EEA nationals with serious criminal convictions.

Despite this, every case will always bee looked at on it’s own facts and merits. However this decision indicates that in such cases where there is a British national dependant child who would suffer severe psychological damage if his parent is deported, then this alone may be sufficient to meet the very high threshold for resisting deportation.

If you or someone you know is facing deportation, contact us or call our expert immigration team for advice.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa Closed as of 29 March 2019

Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa Closed to New Applicants

Following a statement of changes to UK immigration rules issued on 7 March 2019, the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa programme was closed to new applicants on 29 March 2019. This has been replaced by the new UK Innovator visa scheme.

Important Information

  • Only entry clearance applications made by people who have held Tier 1 Entrepreneur leave in the past 12 months will be accepted.
  • Applications for leave to remain will only be accepted from applicants who have previously been granted Tier 1 Entrepreneur leave in the past 12 months.
  • Dependants, including partners, spouses or children under 18, can still apply to join applicants with Tier 1 Entrepreneur leave in the UK.
  • Applications for Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa extensions will remain open until 5 April, 2023. UK settlement applications can be made up until 5 April, 2025.
  • Applications to switch from a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa will be open until 5 July, 2025 if changing to another visa and 5 July, 2027 if applying for UK settlement.

The Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa has been replaced by the UK Innovator Visa. If you would like to switch, or make a fresh application for the Innovator Visa, contact us on 020 8401 7352 or by email at info@solicitorsfirm.com

Putney Solicitors

Our new offices now provide a full legal service to the residents of Putney in the London Borough of Wandsworth. We are based a short walk from East Putney Underground or Southfields Underground stations and precisely on the border between Southfields, Wandsworth and Putney. For all legal enquiries relating to Matrimonial matters including divorce, children law matters and the financial aspects of divorce as well as numerous other areas of law including immigration law, commercial law, landlord and tenant matters and contracts and disputes as well as Wills & Probate we are ideally placed to offer a personalised and highly experienced and effective service to the residents of Putney in London.

Our new Putney office address is as follows:

193 Merton Road
Putney
London
SW18 5EF

To book and appointment either pop in or email us at info@solicitorsfirm.com or call 020 8401 7352

Sajid Javid says the UK is deciding asylum applications even before refugees arrive

Speaking during a visit to Dover the

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said, “if you do somehow make it to the UK, we [the UK Government] will do everything we can to make sure that you are often not successful [in your asylum claim].”

This comment made by the Home Secretary today amounts to the government pre-judging an individual’s claim for sanctuary, something to which every individual has a legal right. This is likely to have disturbing implications for the fairness and credibility of the UK asylum determination system as a whole.

The comment suggests that the Government is presupposing asylum applications even before the refugees arrive in the UK. Apart from breaching common principles of natural justice this comment also breaches basic Human Rights and opens potential grounds for asylum seekers to appeal negative decisions.

The comment is all the more significant coming from s new home Secretary who had claimed that he intended to create a fairer and less hostile immigration policy in the Home Office.

Asylum applicatnts are entitled to have their cases fairly determined on its individual merit, regardless of how the individual arrived in the country not be pre-determined ahead of their claim being heard, as implied by Mr Javid.