What family lawyers were talking about this week…

Family Law|Industry News|September 12th 2014

As I mentioned here in this post, Alison Sharland has been granted permission to take her divorce case to the Supreme Court next June after it was found that her husband misled both her and the High Court over the value of his company. The Supreme Court has confirmed that the case raises a point of law of general public importance and will hear her appeal against a decision made by the Court of Appeal in February, when it refused to set aside a divorce agreement she had entered into with her former husband on divorce. As I mentioned in my post, the case has caused a division of opinion amongst lawyers, who await the outcome with considerable interest.

A Freedom of Information request by the charity Action for Children found that during the last financial year a third of UK children were separated from their brothers and sisters when placed in foster care. The figure rose to 45 per cent in the East Midlands. The charity said that splitting siblings “can ignite feelings of loss and abandonment which can affect emotional and mental health. They increase the risk of unstable foster placements and poor performance at school, as well as further problems in adulthood, such as difficulty finding a job, drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness or criminal activity.”

Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children, added: “For many children, being taken into care can be a confusing and upsetting time; add the distress of being split up from your brother or sister into the mix and the impact will last a lifetime.”

The High Court’s decision in the Ashya King wardship case has been published, and the judgment can be seen here. The court gave permission, in accordance with his parents’ wishes, for Ashya to be taken for treatment to Prague in the Czech Republic. The judgment sets out Mr Justice Baker’s reasons for making that decision. Let us all hope that the treatment is successful.

Cafcass has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, this time for August 2014. In that month Cafcass received a total of 894 care applications, representing an 8 per cent increase compared to those received in August 2013. By constrast Cafcass received a total of 2,516 new private law cases, which is a 37 per cent decrease on August 2013 levels, appearing to reflect the continuing effect of the abolition of legal aid in April 2013.

The Department for Work and Pensions has said that, according to a government estimate, as many as 50,000 children may be newly eligible for maintenance, as a three-year process of closing all existing Child Support Agency cases begins. Under reforms of the child maintenance system, the agency has already stopped taking on new cases, with newly-separated parents encouraged to make their own family-based arrangements or use the new Child Maintenance Service instead. Now, as the next phase, the agency has begun the process of closing its 800,000-strong historic caseload. The rationale for thinking that 50,000 children will benefit from all of this is that: “because the parents’ circumstances may have changed since the initial assessment was made – plus the new statutory child maintenance system is much more robust, using data from the tax authorities – it may be that maintenance becomes payable once a new assessment is carried out”. All sounds pretty tenuous to me.

Lastly, research by relationship charity Relate has shown that couples who suffered most during the economic downturn are eight times more likely to have broken up than those least affected. The study found that only two per cent of couples whom the recession hardly impacted on broke up, eight times fewer than those most affected. Meanwhile, those who stayed together in the hardest-hit group were also more likely to say that the quality of their relationship has deteriorated. All pretty depressing, but not exactly surprising, either.

Have a good weekend.

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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