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A week in family law: attitudes towards marriage, child support closures and more

Family Law|Industry News | 13 May 2016 3

It’s Friday the 13th, unlucky for supporters of marriage, a Scottish local authority and others…

NatCen, the independent social research organisation, has published new analysis of the British Social Attitudes survey which suggests that the British public is reaching a tipping point in its views on marriage. For the first time since NatCen started asking whether people who want to have children ought to be married, the proportion who disagree (35%) is almost the same as those who agree (37%). This is in stark contrast to the figures from 1989, when 70% believed that people should be married if they want to have children, compared with just 17% who disagreed. There has also been an increase in the proportion of people who believe that there is little difference between being married and living together. In 2014 74% held this view, compared with 66% in 2006. Meanwhile, a significant majority (62%) also believe that it is just as difficult for unmarried parents to separate as it is for married parents. All very interesting and not, as I’ve suggested, exactly music to the ears of the pro-marriage lobby.

The Department for Work and Pensions has published quarterly statistics on the progress of the Child Support Agency (‘CSA’) case closure programme, from when it began in June 2014, to December 2015. The aim of the programme is to ensure that by the end of 2017 all child maintenance cases will be governed by the current Child Maintenance Service (‘CMS’) 2012 scheme. Before case closure began, there were nearly 852,000 cases with a CSA liability due to be closed. Over half of those cases have now started the case-closure process and 279,000 of these have had their CSA liability ended. Of those closed cases, 13% have now applied to the CMS. As of December 2015, the overall CSA caseload had decreased from 1.5 million to 1.3 million. Still a long way to go…

The Information Commissioner has criticised West Dunbartonshire Council for repeatedly failing to give staff training on data protection. The council were told to implement training on several occasions, and were also advised to put in place a policy around home working. However, they failed to do so and this ultimately contributed to a data breach that led to a child’s medical reports being stolen. The council reported the data breach to the Information Commissioner’s Office (‘ICO’) in July 2014, after an employee had a bag containing confidential information stolen from their car, after they had taken details of an adoption case out of the office to work on from home. An investigation by the ICO found that the employee had not been given training on the Data Protection Act, and that the council still had no guidance to staff on handling personal information when working from home. The council has now been issued with an enforcement notice requiring it to implement training and guidance, or face court action. Personally, I’m not sure that training or guidance (of which we have quite enough already) is required – just a little common sense.

The parents of a teenage girl who attempted to take her to Pakistan to visit her dying grandparents have been fined for breach of the terms of a forced marriage protection order. The family were detained by police at Manchester Airport as they tried to board a flight to Pakistan in July 2015. The order had been imposed at Manchester Family Court in March 2015, but the parents wrongly believed it had been rescinded so that their daughter could leave the country of her own free will. The court accepted that the parents were not deliberately breaching the order and fined them both £250, £85 costs and £15 surcharge. It is expected that an application will be made to discharge the forced marriage protection order. All of which may seem like a bit of a storm in a teacup, but at least it does indicate that the ‘system’ aimed at preventing forced marriage is at least working.

And finally, perhaps the most unusual story of the week was the one that told us that, in an effort to increase its birth rate, Georgia is to set up a national database of single people. I was particularly impressed to read that it will include details of each person’s zodiac sign. Because, as we know, astrology isn’t a complete load of nonsense…

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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    1. Nick Langford says:

      Whether or not children should be born in wedlock may be a matter of opinion (though there are some powerful arguments in favour) but the other two beliefs uncovered by NatCen are demonstrably false, suggesting that the changing attitudes to marriage are founded in profound ignorance rather than any trendy new feminist enlightenment.

    2. JamesB says:

      Nick, given that you are an Oxbridge Graduate, your post does not make sense. Please can you re-write as I do not follow and I don’t think I am the only one. I am interested in your opinion but I do not understand what it is.

      This is the survey that was on the column as a link on the right in the week and I read it then and was interesting. Time the law was changed as it would be sad to say goodbye to Marriage, I agree with Harry Benson on that. He is noticeably without realistic ideas on how to increase the number married though as he doesn’t criticise establishment or the MCA 1973 which make him without any sensible policies. With regards to Nick who is or at least was (not sure on status and think he should advise) a leading person in Families Need Fathers and someone who was duped into paying for a child that was not his, I would be interested in your opinion. Please can you advise what it is.

      With regards to what I have written here, it is public knowledge as he posted it on the internet that that is who Nick Langley is. So, Nick, how are you? What are you thinking on the future and present on the subject? I really would be interested to hear a long post from you on how you think things are and should be please.

    3. JamesB says:

      p.s. Thank you again for the good site and links on the right including on this subject.

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