Well, the first thing they were talking about was pre-nuptial agreements, after a report that the Law Commission is to recommend that they be made enforceable. In fact, the Law Commission is not due to publish its report upon the matter until the 27th of this month, so we will have to wait until then for confirmation.
Single parent charity Gingerbread has warned that children will lose out as a result of the proposed charges for using the new Child Maintenance Service. The warning came as both houses of parliament debated the proposed charges earlier this week. The Government wants separated parents to come to their own private arrangements, without using the new service, and says that the charges will ‘incentivise’ them to agree arrangements. I’m not so sure. Anyway, it seems that the debate is academic, as the plans were passed by parliament, despite a warning from former Lord Chancellor Lord Mackay that the charges for single parents were ‘unjustified in principle’.
It has been reported in The Guardian that cuts to council spending are threatening the existence of child contact centres. I have posted previously here about contact centres and their funding. They provide an essential service and, as I said in my previous post, I really don’t know what we would do without them. Let us hope that they are not another victim of current austerity.
I was pleased to note that the so-called ‘shared parenting’ presumption in clause 11 of the Children and Families Bill has been amended. The presumption states that courts should ‘presume, unless the contrary is shown, that involvement of that parent in the life of the child concerned will further the child’s welfare’. Like many others, I feared that the presumption could lead to separating parents assuming that they are legally bound to equally share access to their children. Now, thanks to a campaign by a consortium of children’s charities led by Coram Children’s Legal Centre the clause has been amended to clarify that ‘involvement’ means involvement of some kind, either direct or indirect, but not ‘any particular division of a child’s time’. This seems eminently sensible, and will help ensure that the welfare of the child remains paramount.
The latest divorce statistics, for 2012, have been published by the Office for National Statistics. These showed a slight increase in the number of divorces in England and Wales compared to 2011, although nothing particularly significant. Perhaps of more interest was the finding that for those married in 1972, 22% of marriages had ended in divorce by their 15th wedding anniversary whereas for those married in 1997, almost a third of marriages had ended by that time. It is interesting to speculate whether this trend will continue into the future. If so, then I calculate that less than half of those who tie the knot in ten years time can expect to still be married fifteen years later – a sobering thought.
Lastly, as if to confirm what I said yesterday about domestic violence being a problem that occurs in all walks of life, it has been reported that Lord Edward Somerset, an aristocrat from one of Britain’s grandest families, has been jailed for two years after admitting beating his wife over a 22-year period. It seems that he assaulted her after she confronted him over his addition to drink and drugs, both of which are common factors in domestic violence cases.
Not a happy note to end on. Have a peaceful weekend.
Image by Chris Potter via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence
John Bolch is a family law blogger