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What family lawyers were talking about this week…

Quite a lot, including:

A new survey of teens and young adults published by family lawyers’ association Resolution to coincide with Family Dispute Resolution Week indicates that young people feel their exam results are suffering as a direct result of parental break-up. The survey of 14-22 year olds also finds that parental separation is leading young people to turn to alcohol and skipping lessons, while some admit to experimenting, or thinking about experimenting, with drugs.

Chair of Resolution Jo Edwards said:

“These new findings show the wide-ranging impact of divorce and separation on young people. It underlines just how important it is that parents going through a split manage their separation in a way that minimises the stress and impact on the entire family, especially children, otherwise their exam results could suffer. Divorce and separation is always traumatic, but there is a better way to deal with it.”

I agree, as I said here in this post.

And that is not the only research that Resolution has published to coincide with Family Dispute Resolution Week. Resolution has also released research which indicates that British workplaces are suffering as a result of divorce and separation. The research shows that nine per cent of people in the UK have either had to leave their job as a result of their own separation, or have seen a colleague move on for the same reason. According to Resolution the stress of separation also has an impact, with 16 per cent saying they or one of their colleagues has had to take sick leave as a direct result of the anguish of a break up, while 15 per cent of people said separation and divorce has had a negative impact on productivity where they work. However, despite the effect it has on them or their colleagues, just ten per cent of people think their employers offer adequate support for people going through a break up, with 34 per cent saying more needs to be done to provide support in the workplace for those undergoing separation or divorce.

Not satisfied with that, Resolution has published a third survey for Family Dispute Resolution Week, this one indicating that Britons are turning to credit cards, overdrafts and personal loans following a relationship break-up. The survey said that as a direct result of a break-up more than one in four (28 per cent) adults say they’ve fallen into debt, while one in six (16 per cent) admit to asking a friend for short-term financial help following a break-up. What is the answer to this appalling situation? You’ve guessed it: for couples to work together to agree a fair financial outcome when separating, rather than relying on the courts.

Meanwhile, the government has announced a £10 million fund to support women’s refuges in 100 areas across England. The fund was announced on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25 November) and is one of a number of measures the government is taking as part of this global campaign. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles also wrote to England’s 326 councils to remind them of their legal duty to house women and children who have been forced to flee their homes for fear of violence and abuse. My understanding is that many refuges have had to close recently due to funding cuts – whether this new money will be sufficient to reverse that trend, we will have to see.

The number of children in care has risen to its highest level for nearly 25 years following the death of Baby P and recent child sex exploitation scandals, the government’s spending watchdog has found. According to a report by the National Audit Office, local authorities in England were looking after 68,110 children in March 2013 – a 14 per cent increase since 2008. The report noted that the rapid rise in children in care followed coverage of Baby P’s death in 2007, and auditors said that almost every local authority said they were expecting or experiencing an increase in referrals linked to child sexual exploitation after high-profile cases in Rotherham and other towns. All pretty depressing, but not really news.

Litigants in person (‘LiPs’) are in the news. Firstly, the Ministry of Justice has published findings from a study into the experiences and support needs of LiPs in private family law cases. The report makes various recommendations, including that all relevant family justice communications, including forms, leaflets, practice directions, templates and pro forma, are re-evaluated from the perspective of LIPs and (if necessary) redesigned with their various needs in mind. Secondly, ‘experimental statistics’ have been released by the Ministry of Justice which suggest that the increase in the duration of private family law hearings is not caused by the increase of LiPs since the abolition of legal aid. The statistics come with certain caveats and it will be interesting to see if they are confirmed by more definite data, although whether shorter hearings are actually a good thing for the parties involved is another matter.

And finally, the American wife of a London financier has been awarded £337m by a High Court judge in a divorce case. Sir Chris Hohn and Jamie Cooper-Hohn, founders of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, had fought over assets said to be worth more than £700m. The sum is thought to be the biggest of its kind made by a judge in England after the couple separated following 17 years of marriage. Nice work if you can get it.

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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