In the second of a three part series, Stowe Family Law solicitors Anthony Jones and Nia Jones reflect on significant developments in family law during 2014.
Arrangements for children saw significant developments in 2014. In addition to the introduction of the new child arrangements orders, we also saw a new ‘presumption of parental involvement’.
This was introduced on 22 October, into Section 1 of the Children Act 1989. It fell short of the originally planned ‘assumption of shared parenting’. Involvement can now be any kind – direct or indirect and has to be balanced against any risk or safety concerns.
This was a real missed opportunity for the government as the changes that were introduced are unlikely to result in any significant changes to arrangements concerning children, particularly as they do not go far enough in promoting shared care. The welfare of the child or children will continue to be the court’s paramount consideration of course, and the court will also continue to consider the ‘welfare checklist’ (a set of factors listed the Children Act 1989).
Anthony Jones is a senior solicitor in the Stowe Family Law Wilmslow office. He is a Resolution-accredited specialist in advanced financial provision and cohabitation and has advised international clients in places such as Hong Kong, Mauritius, USA and Spain.
2014 will undoubtedly be remembered as the year that same-sex couples gained the right to marry, under the provisions of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. This came into force on 13 March 2014, with the first same sex marriages taking part on 29 March.
Same sex couples can now marry in civil ceremonies. Religious organisations are also able to conduct same sex marriages should they wish to do so, although the changes met with a mixed reception, with opposition from some religious groups. Prior to this, a civil partnership was a purely civil arrangement devoid of any religious connotation.
The legislation also means that anyone that changes their legal gender may do so without ending their existing marriage, where both parties to the marriage consent.
Same sex marriage has also now been legalised in Scotland, with the first same-sex marriages set to take place in the New Year.
The Act does not remove the availability of civil partnerships for same sex couples. But couples who wish to convert their civil partnerships into marriages can also do so now, under the procedures set out in the Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Conversion of Civil Partnership) Regulations 2014. This can be carried out at a registry office or with a full ceremony. The couple will then receive backdated marriage certificates, citing date of the civil partnership (see here for more information).
The Regulations make provision for the waiver and reduction of fees where the civil partnership that is to be converted into a marriage was formed prior to 29 March 2014 (the first date on which marriages of same sex couples could take place in England and Wales).
Data from the Office for National Statistics show that a total of 1,409 marriages were formed between same sex couples between 29 March and 30 June 2014. Of these, 56 per cent of marriages were to female couples (796 marriages) and 44 per cent to male couples (613 marriages).
Nia Jones is a solicitor in the Stowe Family Law Wilmslow office.