It’s been a busy week for family law-related news.
First up, the latest figures from Cafcass for care applications and private law demand, for September 2015, have been published. In that month Cafcass received a total of 979 care applications, a seven per cent increase compared to those received in September 2014. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,094 new private law cases, which is a nine per cent increase on September 2014 levels. The figures keep going up…
On to court closures. The Law Society has published its response to the Ministry of Justice consultation on proposals to close 91 courts and tribunals, which is one fifth of courts and tribunals across England and Wales, and integrate or merge 31 more. The response, says the Law Society, reflects solicitors’ views on the likely adverse impact of the proposed closures on local communities, the justice system and the legal profession. Amongst the Society’s concerns are that almost all of the proposed closures would result in court users travelling further, at greater cost. In other words, a further erosion in the public’s access to justice.
That is not, however, the view of the chief executive of HM Courts & Tribunals Service, Natalie Ceeney. Giving evidence to the House of Commons justice committee she said that the primary consideration in relation to the closures has been access to justice. Hmm. She also raised a few eyebrows when she told the committee that the increase in the number of litigants in person following the legal aid cuts has not caused more delays in civil courts. Hmm again. That view is certainly not shared by many family lawyers who use the courts.
Next up, divorce. The association of family lawyers Resolution has warned that thousands of divorcing couples are lying to the courts every year due to divorce laws which pit people against one another. According to new research by Resolution more than 27 per cent of couples citing unreasonable behaviour admitted that their claims were not true, but were the easiest way of getting a divorce.
The chair of Resolution Jo Edwards commented:
“As our research findings show, the current system is causing couples to make false allegations in court in order to have their divorce finalised within a reasonable time. This charade needs to be ended.”
With the greatest respect, I’m not sure we needed research to tell us that.
Meanwhile, by pure coincidence David Bacon MP introduced his ’ten minute bill’ to bring in no-fault divorce this week. The bill essentially proposes that there be added to the current law an option for the parties to divorce by mutual consent, without needing to prove anything else. Whilst it’s certainly good that no-fault divorce is being debated, I have serious reservations about the bill.
Last but not least, the Supreme Court has handed down its decisions in the Sharland and Gohil appeals, which concerned the impact of fraud or non-disclosure upon financial orders following divorce. In both cases the wives sought to re-open financial orders because of non-disclosure by the husbands. The Supreme Court unanimously allowed both of the appeals, so that the cases will now be re-heard. The decisions don’t surprise me in the least although, as I’ve said before, if it really is the case that the wives will not get any more then clearly any rehearing will be a pointless exercise.
Have a good weekend.