What family lawyers were talking about this week… by John Bolch

Family Law|Industry News|March 14th 2014

Quite a lot, actually…

A study into pension sharing on divorce has been published by Cardiff Law School. The study included a survey of court files, interviews with practitioners and judges and expert assessment of data from a sub-sample of the court files. Amongst the main findings of the study was that in 20 per cent of the court file cases neither party disclosed any pension other than a basic state pension; in 66 per cent one or both parties disclosed a pension other than basic state pension but no pension order was made; and just 14% included one or more pension orders. Hilary Woodward, the principal author of the study, commented: “The findings of this, the first detailed study into pension sharing orders since their introduction, suggest that pension sharing is a positive addition to financial remedies. However, the complexities of pensions deter even practitioners and judges from using such orders to the maximum advantage. This is of particular concern in view of the increasing number of litigants in person in family cases.”

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, which is known as ‘Clare’s Law’ has been introduced across England and Wales. The scheme, which is named after 36-year-old Clare Wood who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2009, is intended to provide information that could protect someone from being a victim of domestic violence. Under it, the police are allowed to disclose information on request about a partner’s previous history of domestic violence or violent acts.

Still on the subject of domestic violence, new figures, gathered by the office of Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, show that the number of domestic violence cases being referred to prosecutors, and the conviction rate, have dropped despite an increase in reports to the police. Whilst reports of domestic violence to police increased by 11 per cent from 2010/11 to 2012/3, the percentage of successful prosecutions dropped by 14 pr in the same period. As for referrals to the Crown Prosecution Service, in 2009/10 police referred 12.1 per cent of cases, but in 2012/13 that figure had dropped to 10.5 per cent The data also exposes significant differences between the performance of the police forces in tackling domestic violence across the country. For example, in Cheshire last year, 33 per cent of domestic violence cases recorded as an offence were referred by police to prosecutors, with 29 per ent in North Yorkshire, but in Northumbria, the figure was just 2.6 per cent. In Warwickshire it was 3.6 per cent.

The case of Rubin v Rubin, mentioned here in this post, has led to considerable discussion amongst family lawyers this week. In the case the wife was seeking orders that her husband pay legal costs that she had incurred. However, as mentioned in that post, Mr Justice Mostyn found against her. In the course of his judgment he set out the principles applicable to applications for ‘legal services payment orders’, which require one party to pay to the other an amount of money to enable the other party to obtain legal services for the purposes of the proceedings.

Senior Conservative MP Andrew Selous has warned that the rising number of people getting divorced as they approach retirement age is leading to “escalating” costs for the social care system, with more people living alone. Mr Selous suggests that GPs should talk to those over the age of 50 about their relationships and direct them to counselling services. He said: “The number of divorces for the over 60s has increased by 30 per cent in the last decade and the number of over 75s living alone has increased by over a fifth since 1996. This says to me that local authorities and the Department of Health should recognise the very big interest they have in strengthening marriages and couple relationships in order to stop adult social care costs from increasing even more rapidly than they are expected to.”

In the case Re R, that I mentioned here in this post, Judge Bellamy criticised the Legal Aid Agency for being wasteful and inefficient’ in dealing with an application for funding for an expert witness report. He had made an order for up to £2,500 to be spent on a report from an expert in Indian family law, but the Agency refused to grant authority for the instruction of the expert on the basis that costs should be ‘equally shared’. Judge Bellamy said he had concerns about the ‘negative, costly and unhelpful impact’ of the LAA’s actions in the case.

Lastly, the Children and Families Act 2014 has been given royal assent. In the words of the Department for Education, the act “will mean changes to the law to give greater protection to vulnerable children, better support for children whose parents are separating, a new system to help children with special educational needs and disabilities, and help for parents to balance work and family life.” The act includes provisions intended to create a more efficient and effective family justice system, including making it a requirement to attend a family mediation, information and assessment meeting (‘MIAM’) to find out about and consider mediation before applying for certain types of court order, sending a signal to separated parents that courts will take account of the principle that both should continue to be involved in their children’s lives and introducing a maximum 26-week time limit for completing care proceedings. Most of the family justice provisions in the act will come into force on the 22nd of April, coinciding with the launch of the new single family court.

After all of that, you need a break – have a good weekend.

Image by Chris Potter via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

 

Author: John Bolch

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

Comments(2)

  1. Paul says:

    An expert report commissioned in India by an individual would cost precisely two and sixpence likke everything else does there. It only costs more when the very British LAA do it because they route their requests through layers of consultants. Someone at the LAA ought to learn how to pick up a ‘phone. Indian experts don’t bite, you know.

  2. Stitchedup says:

    Extract from CPS news centre:

    http://www.cps.gov.uk/news/latest_news/vawg_report_2013/

    Violence against Women and Girls

    10/07/2013

    In the second year of record conviction rates for rape and domestic violence for the CPS, analysis indicates that convictions have also improved in every other area of recorded Violence against Women and Girls prosecutions.

    Overall this year, three out of four cases of Violence against Women and Girls resulted in convictions. Conviction rates also went up in cases of domestic violence, rape and other sexual offences, forced marriage, honour based violence, child abuse and human trafficking. The CPS has achieved its highest ever rape and domestic violence conviction rates, with 63.2% of rape prosecutions and 74.3% of domestic violence prosecutions resulting in successful outcomes in 2012-13.

    These improvements mark a decade of change with some of the most fundamental shifts in approach to prosecuting that the CPS has implemented. Outlining some of the achievements of the past ten years, the Director of Public Prosecutions will be speaking to an audience at the national charity Women’s Aid Annual Conference on 11 July 2012. Women’s Aid has played an important ongoing role in the development of the CPS’s approach to these crimes since becoming members of the first External Consultation Group on domestic violence more than ten years ago.

    END OF EXTRACT.

    Somebody must be telling porkies John.

    I can’t claim to have researched all the facts and figures but as a professional engineer I have a good grasp of statistics and percentages. You can not deduce absolute numbers just by quoting percentages without giving the sample size on which the percentages are calculated.

    Also, I am not surprised there are regional variations “between the performance of the police forces in tackling domestic violence across the country. For example, in Cheshire last year, 33 per cent of domestic violence cases recorded as an offence were referred by police to prosecutors, with 29 per cent in North Yorkshire, but in Northumbria, the figure was just 2.6 per cent. In Warwickshire it was 3.6 per cent.”

    Firstly, are we comparing crackdown areas with non-crackdown areas here… you will be prosecuted for farting in a crackdown area. Also given the tendency for women that have been brainwashed by anti-male, anti-family propaganda from the likes of Women’s Aid, to interpret any minor domestic disagreement as abuse, it’s hardly surprising their allegations do not hold water when scrutinised in non-crackdown areas and the complaint is taken no further.

    I also find it incredibly scary that the CPS feel fit to openly admit that “Women’s Aid has played an important ongoing role in the development of the CPS’s approach to these crimes since becoming members of the first External Consultation Group on domestic violence more than ten years ago”.

    Most surprising though is that John, faced with what he believes to be a reduction in DV prosecutions/convictions, doesn’t appear to view this as a reason to celebrate… surely this would be indicative of DV being less prevalent???

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