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

In a particularly light week for heavy news stories, they’ve probably been talking more about the tennis and the football than family law. Either that or they’ve been out enjoying the sun. There have, however, been a few stories of note:

Firstly, new child maintenance regulations came into force on the 30th of June, under which most parents making a new application to the Child Maintenance Service (‘CMS’) will have to pay a £20 application fee. If the CMS then collects the child maintenance payments, a 20% administration fee will be added to every amount collected. Accordingly, for every £100 assessed, the non-resident paying parent will actually have to pay £120. From this sum, the government takes an administration fee of £24, leaving just £96 for the receiving parent. To avoid the charges, parents can make their own private agreements or use the CMS only to determine the level of maintenance. If they then set up ‘Direct Pay’ arrangements to their former partner or spouse, they will not be charged an administration fee. The charges have been criticised by single parent charity Gingerbread. The charity says that it is wrong in principle for the government to deduct from money intended for children.

The Divorce (Financial Provisions) Bill, introduced by Baroness Deech in February, has received its second reading in the House of Lords. The Bill includes a provision to make pre- and post-nuptial agreements binding. It would also share the net value of ‘matrimonial property’ (essentially, all property acquired after the parties were married, save for gifts and inheritances) equally between the parties and limit the duration of spousal maintenance to three years. The Bill has already generated considerable debate amongst family lawyers.

The conviction rate for domestic violence cases has reached its highest ever level according to the director of public prosecutions. Domestic violence cases now make up 10.7% of the Crown Prosecution Service’s case load, up from 8.9% in 2012/13 and just 6% in 2007/08. As someone who can remember the days when the police weren’t interested in ‘domestics’, I suppose this is good news, although not of course for the victims.

Lastly, the Family Mediation Task Force has published a report setting out its first set of recommendations on what more can be done to increase the uptake of family mediation. The recommendations include that the Ministry of Justice should undertake a campaign to increase awareness of mediation and that the Ministry should consider paying for all Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings for a period of twelve months. The task force also recommends that the Legal Aid Agency should fund the non-legally aided person for the first single session mediation for a period of three years. Pretty ironic, considering that legal aid for most private family law matters was abolished last year, which is what led to the fall in the number of publicly funded mediations in the first place.

And with that, I shall return to the tennis and the football.

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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