John Bolch on what family lawyers were talking about this week…

Family Law|Industry News | 9 May 2014 0

There wasn’t a lot of news this week, due no doubt in part to the bank holiday, but that didn’t stop family lawyers talking…

Statistics released by the First4Adoption service, which launched in January 2013 and became fully operational in April 2013, show that in its first year of operation, 94,752 individuals used the website and there were 2,196 calls to its information line. The service’s annual report reveals that a total of 6,808 website visitors went on to directly contact an adoption agency, with evidence also emerging that some of these people have become approved adopters.

The Department for Work and Pensions has launched a Child Maintenance Toolkit. The toolkit provides organisations that support child maintenance clients with accurate information about child maintenance and the changes taking place. This includes information about the Child Maintenance Service fees and charges and the ending of Child Support Agency arrangements. Also included is information about wider support that is available to separated families. The Toolkit includes booklets, factsheets, leaflets and an online calculator.

Forced marriage is not confined to Britain’s Muslim communities but exists among all minority groups, Baroness Butler-Sloss has said. The former High Court judge, who chairs the National Commission on Forced Marriage, said that there was “a great deal of pressure” on parents and elders to ensure that children married within their strongly religious communities, but there was “a thin line” between legitimate emotional pressure and coercion. She told the UK’s first national conference on forced marriage: “We have discovered that it is not exclusively a Muslim issue. It is an issue that affects other minority communities for instance Sikhs, Hindus, Orthodox Jews and indeed any group that values the tight-knit community of which it is part and is very concerned that members of that community should not marry outside the community.” Forced marriage is to become a criminal offence next month, under section 121 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

The Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas of Cwngiedd has indicated his support for a more inquisitorial system in family and other civil cases, saying that: “The adversarial system doesn’t work if you take away legal aid”. He said that for small level civil work and ‘of necessity’ family work, it is ‘the only way to deliver justice’.

The biggest talking point this week was actually the press conference that the President of the Family Division Sir James Munby gave last week. Perhaps this is not surprising, as such events have previously been a rarity – maybe they will be more common in future. The President’s comments, particularly upon divorce as an administrative process and cohabitants’ rights, continue to be discussed in the media and elsewhere. His belief that the family law reforms will not be undermined by the legal aid cuts has also led to debate, with some not sharing his confidence…

Have a good weekend.

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.

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