What family lawyers were talking about this week

Family Law|Industry News|August 22nd 2014

There has been no shortage of conversation topics.

Firstly, the President of the Family Division Sir James Munby published his 13th View from the President’s Chambers. Entitled ‘The process of reform: an update’, the View sets out the latest developments regarding such things as transparency, experts, divorce and the standardisation of family court orders. I have, of course, already commented here upon what he had to say regarding divorce reform in this post.

And as mentioned in this post, David Cameron has announced that all government policies will have to pass a “family test”. In a speech to the Relationships Alliance group in London, he argued that parents and children were too often overlooked and could be left worse off by reforms. Accordingly, from October, every new domestic policy “will be examined for its impact on the family”. The prime minister also said that online music videos could be given age ratings, and more money would be put towards relationship counselling services. There was no mention of bringing back legal aid to help separated parents retain contact with their children…

The number of children placed for adoption has risen by 14 per cent over the last year, according to latest government figures. Provisional figures for 2013/14 show that 5,210 children were placed with adoptive parents, compared with 4,560 during 2012/13. The figures also show there was an 11 per cent drop in the number of children identified as needing to be adopted but who had not yet been placed with an adoptive family. Good news, I suppose, but one has to wonder why these children needed to be adopted in the first place.

Home Secretary Theresa May has launched a consultation asking whether the law needs to be strengthened in order to provide better protection to domestic abuse victims by spelling out that domestic abuse can be emotional and psychological as well as physical.Mrs May said: “The government is clear that abuse is not just physical. Victims who are subjected to a living hell by their partners must have the confidence to come forward. I want perpetrators to be in no doubt that their cruel and controlling behaviour is criminal. We will look at the results of this consultation carefully in order to continue providing the best possible protection and support for victims of domestic abuse.” Again, I have already discussed this proposal here.

Meanwhile, Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes has announced that the Government will fund one single mediation session for all separated couples, provided that one of them is in receipt of legal aid. Other recommendations the Government is taking forward include setting up an advisory group of experts to improve practice and make sure mediation is focussed on the best outcomes for any children involved; reviewing future Legal Aid Agency contracts with mediation providers to improve service; exploring options for reforming the management of the mediation sector; expanding the ongoing campaign to increase awareness of mediation and legal help for mediation; and reviewing the availability of legal aid for mediation. Whether this will actually increase the take up of mediation, we will have to wait and see.

The Ministry of Justice and Department for Education have published an update setting out the progress made since the Family Justice Review was published in 2011. Cheerily entitled A brighter future for Family Justice: a round up of what’s happened since the Family Justice Review, the update includes an annex setting out the progress that has been made against all 134 of the Family Justice Review recommendations. Of course, the abolition of legal aid for most private law family matters has not made the future brighter for many users of the family justice system.

The number of children in council care in England has risen by 12 per cent in the last four years, with overall costs calculated at £3.4bn. The latest figures show that there were 68,110 children in care on 31 March 2013, including 42,228 who had suffered abuse or neglect. According to the Audit Commission, this figure has risen by 12 per cent or 7,210 in four years. Pretty sobering numbers.

Lastly, and on a happier note, the Office for National Statistics has published the first statistics for same-sex marriage. A total of 1,409 marriages were formed between same sex couples between the 29th of March, when the first same-sex marriages took place, and the 30th of June. Of these, 56% of marriages were to female couples (796 marriages) while 44% were to male couples (613 marriages).

Have a good weekend and Summer Bank Holiday!

Photo by Jack via Flickr

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.

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