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What family lawyers were talking about this week…

A pretty mixed bag, actually:

Cafcass has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for September 2014. In that month Cafcass received a total of 902 care applications, representing a 7 per cent increase compared to those received in September 2013. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 2,858 new private law cases, a 25 per cent decrease on September 2013 levels, appearing to reflect the continuing effect of the abolition of legal aid in April 2013. I wrote about the private law demand figures in this post.

And as also mentioned this post, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee had published its ‘early progress’ report on the child maintenance 2012 scheme. The Committee found, unsurprisingly, that there is a “worrying uncertainty” around the impact that the introduction of charges for statutory child maintenance services will have. This report has been welcomed by single parent charity Gingerbread, who warned the government that the charge could see the numbers of children getting child maintenance fall. I’m sure that they are right.

New government figures have revealed that over sixty percent of parents are now without a lawyer when going to court to contest arrangements for their children. The figures, revealed under a freedom of information request, show that between April and June 2014, 12,554 parents out of a total of 20,126 in England and Wales went to court without a lawyer. In 2012/13, before legal aid was withdrawn for most private law family disputes, the proportion of unrepresented parents at court stood at 42 per cent. The latest quarterly figures for 2014/15 show this has increased to 62 per cent. Once again, no surprises there.

The office of the President of the Family Division has indicated that section 11 of the Children and Families Act 2014 will come into force on the 22nd of October. Section 11 introduces the ‘presumption of parental involvement’, whereby the court in proceedings relating to a child should presume, unless the contrary is shown, that involvement of each parent in the life of the child concerned will further the child’s welfare. Section 11 will not apply to proceedings commenced prior to the 22nd of October. Whether it will make any difference to the outcome of proceedings commenced after that date is another matter.

A wife who sacrificed her successful business career to become a housewife has gone to the Court of Appeal to seek a larger share of her husband’s £11 million fortune. Julia Hammans claims that despite their initial equality, her income is now ten times smaller than his. While her husband, Nicholas Hammans, went on to become a multi-millionaire partner at Price Waterhouse Coopers, sometimes earning more than £900,000 a year, she is being forced to sell the £1.75m family home. She said their divorce left her in a “radically different” position and that she should be entitled to compensation for giving up her potential earnings. The Court of Appeal has reserved its judgment, and this will be handed down at a later date.

Lastly, the speech that the President gave to the 2014 Wales Legal Conference has given rise to some discussion amongst family lawyers, in particular the President’s remarks regarding the reform of the family courts. I have, of course, already summarised the speech, where I indicated that the President had not actually said much that we did not know already. Well, that’s my view anyway…

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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