Children Law Handbook
£75, Law Society
This book should be on any children law practitioner’s table. It is an excellent and essential modern work with a detailed overview of all areas of children law. Solicitors and barristers tend to operate in legal silos, specialising in private or public children law, with gaps in their knowledge. This book remedies that for the assistance of practitioners when giving advice to the public, as it neatly brings together and dovetails the interplay between the two areas.
When social services and local authorities become involved in children’s and families’ lives, it is good practice to have more than an elementary awareness of what could happen and why. To know what could be in store in relation to the rule of law and how to steer, and also when to refer to members of the Law Society’s Children Law Accreditation Scheme who are public law specialists, can only be in the public interest. Indeed this book is an essential tool for practitioners at all levels, whether members of the Society’s family law and or children law accreditation schemes, or lawyers with Resolution’s specialist accreditation, or junior lawyers.
Mahmood’s love of children law is reflected in his easy referencing of subject matter and style. It leaves one wanting to learn more from an academic perspective. His experience as a lecturer, as well as a practising solicitor, comes through.
Mahmood deals with a comprehensive range of subjects, including: private law orders, public law orders, parental responsibility, surrogacy, parental orders, adoption, removal from the jurisdiction, the voice of the child and developments, publicity and children proceedings, enforcement of child arrangements orders, local authority involvement and protection, deprivation of liberty cases, assessments, parallel planning, special guardianship orders, types of placements, assessments, adoption (in some detail), forced marriage protection orders, female genital mutilation orders, and domestic abuse and injunctions. He also looks at advocacy in children law proceedings.
The law in this book is stated as at December 2020. It also includes reference to coronavirus legislation. There has, of course, been development in the area of domestic abuse and the assent of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, so this book needs to be read with this in mind. However, Mahmood does not deal with the availability of legal aid in any detail in the public law children area, where local authorities are involved. When there is local authority involvement there may be public funding available. So when acting for clients privately in children law matters, when local authorities become involved practitioners should be aware that legal aid could be available, and signpost to solicitors who are legal aid and public law specialists and members of the Society’s children law accreditation scheme if they are not specialists themselves.
As a solicitor who practises across public law and private law and areas covered, including two key reported cases cited in this book, I cannot recommend this edition highly enough.
Denise Lester is a solicitor at McCormacks Law, a Society Council member for child care law, and a member of the Society’s family and children law committees. She is also a member of the Society’s family law and children law accreditation schemes and a Resolution specialist accredited lawyer
Children Law Handbook
Many practitioners will have the loose leaf multi-volume Clarke Hall & Morrison or Hershman & McFarlane and this book complements them. As well as being pithy and practical, it contains a wealth of case law and other references.
The author practises as a solicitor, manager and advocate in the legal department of Coventry City Council. He is also an approved trainer for the Law Society Children Law Accreditation Scheme.
In his preface, he says that he has endeavoured to incorporate as much practical experience and advice as possible, coupled with the relevant law and procedure, so as to provide the reader with a comprehensive account of this subject area. He essentially succeeds in this aim.
The book opens with a chapter on parental responsibility and then moves on to the concept of parenthood and private children law orders. This chapter has a good section on specific issue orders and change of name. However, unfortunately it only touches on Schedule 1 Children Act claims for financial orders for children; the reader is left longing for a section which addresses it more fully and exhibits recent case law, of which there is a good deal.
The work is also lacking in a section on child support and the Child Maintenance Service which it covers in a single sentence. One hopes that this will also be addressed in the next edition.
Perhaps I am being picky as a former public children solicitor turned private children lawyer, but this begs the question of at whom the book is aimed. Certainly public children lawyers will be satisfied by various chapters towards the end of the book covering local authority involvement and protection, parallel planning and assessments of family and friends, placement with parents, fostering and special guardianship together with adoption law and practice. Essentially, there is something for everyone no matter which area of children law one specialises in.
A welcome chapter for any children lawyer is one on advocacy. There is one here, but it would benefit from being longer and perhaps covering virtual hearings. One handy tip that it does contain for the advocate is to take a clean set of complete papers along to court, lest any person is joined as a party so that they can subsequently be handed the papers.
The book covers female genital mutilation orders as well as forced marriage protection orders. Each is supported by relevant case law.
Appendix C usefully comprises references in the form of practice guidance and reports, to include Coronavirus Crisis: Guidance on Compliance with Family Court Child Arrangement Orders.
This handbook is a worthy addition to the canon of children law books.
Tony Roe is family law solicitor and arbitrator at Dexter Montague, Reading