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More statistics, and more: a week in family law

Statistics once again feature prominently in this week’s family law news…

First up, figures detailing the number of children benefiting from ‘effective family-based child maintenance arrangements’ (‘FBAs’) after contacting the Child Maintenance Options service have been published by the Department for Work and Pensions (‘DWP’). An FBA is a child maintenance arrangement which parents have agreed between themselves, and the DWP define an ‘effective FBA’ as either a regular financial arrangement where at least some of the agreed amount is always/usually received on time and the parent considers the arrangement to be working very/fairly well, or an ad hoc arrangement which includes a financial element (or transaction in kind e.g. school uniform) and where the parent considers the arrangement to be working very/fairly well. The statistics tell us that over the year 2014/15 52,000 children benefited from an effective FBA secured after contact with Child Maintenance Options. It all sounds marvellous, but just how impressive are the statistics?

The next government department to produce statistics to let us all know just how well its policies are doing was the Department for Education (DfE). They announced that more than 2,000 families have been helped through a ‘life-changing government fund’ worth over £7 million in the past 6 months. A DfE press release proudly stated: “Thousands of adoptive families are now accessing essential therapy services to help their children close the door on previous traumatic experiences and settle into their new life – backed by £7 million of government investment. Since the introduction of the fund in April 2015 – the most significant reform to adoption support in a generation – applications have been made by every single council the length and breadth of the country.” I’m sure that this money is welcome, but do we have to have it announced in such a self-congratulatory fashion?

More statistics came from the Office of National Statistics, in respect of civil partnerships and same-sex marriages. These showed that, unsurprisingly, the number of civil partnerships created dropped from 5,646 in 2013 to 1,683 in 2014, following the introduction of marriages for same sex couples in March 2014. The statistics also informed us that more than 15,000 same-sex marriages have taken place in England and Wales since then, of which 7,732 were conversions from civil partnerships. Meanwhile, Tim Loughton MP, who actually opposed same-sex marriage, has introduced a ten-minute bill to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. Personally, I think that civil partnership was only ever a stop-gap, and should be phased out entirely.

The Court of Appeal has allowed an appeal in a case over whether a woman was being deprived of her liberty in her own home, and in the process criticised a High Court judge who maintained that the majority decision of the Supreme Court in the Cheshire West case was wrong. In KW & Others v Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson said that Mr Justice Mostyn had “twice made decisions which have been the subject of an appeal to this court. On both occasions, the parties have agreed that the appeal must be allowed. This has led to considerable unnecessary costs to the public purse and unnecessary use of court time. We regret to say that it is the judge’s tenacious adherence to his jurisprudential analysis leading to his conclusion that Cheshire West was wrongly decided that has been at the root of this … In our view, the judge’s passionate view that the legal analysis of the majority in Cheshire West is wrong is in danger of distorting his approach to these cases.” Strong stuff.

And finally, it has been reported that Malaysian business tycoon Khoo Kay Peng and his estranged wife Pauline Chai have spent approximately £5 million on their ongoing divorce proceedings. Great for the lawyers, but a lesson to others on the merits of settling matters by agreement, rather than fighting through the courts.

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, with his content now supporting our divorce lawyers and child custody lawyers

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