A week in family law
The Office for National Statistics has published figures which show that the cohabiting couple family continues to be the fastest growing family type in the UK in 2016. Their latest statistical bulletin shows that cohabiting couple families in the UK have doubled from 1.5 million families in 1996 to 3.3 million families in 2016. There were 3.2 million opposite sex cohabiting couple families and 87,000 same sex cohabiting couple families in the UK in 2016 and together, cohabiting couple families account for 17 per cent of all families in the UK. Could this ultimately lead to marriage no longer being the dominant family type? It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to work out that that is a real possibility in the not too distant future. Unsurprisingly the figures have led to renewed calls for the introduction of proper rights for cohabiting couples when they separate, although I don’t hold out much hope of the present government having the foresight to do that.
In his 2016 annual report the Lord Chief Justice has expressed concern at the volume of public and private law cases before the Family Court. He noted that the number of care cases commenced between January and March 2016 was 4,833, up 24 per cent on the same quarter in 2015, and said that the increase in workload is a source of concern, as the reasons for it are not well understood at present. He also noted that for the second quarter of 2016 there was a 16 per cent increase in new private law cases compared with the same quarter in 2015. He said that this, in combination with the increase in public law cases, is a major concern for the judiciary. Again, he said that the reasons for the increase are not well understood. Further, the majority of the private law cases that come before the Family Court now feature litigants-in-person, increasingly on both sides. In this post Marilyn Stowe looks at the report and comes to some pretty bleak conclusions regarding the state of the family justice system.
Following on from that Cafcass has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for the month of October 2016. In that month the service received a total of 1,141 care applications, which is a 5 per cent increase compared to those received in October 2015. Whilst the figures are obviously still going up, this was actually the lowest monthly figure since January, and considerably less than the rate of increase in recent months. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,505 new private law cases, which is a 9 per cent increase on October 2015 levels. The rate of increase of private cases received in the previous six months, compared with a year ago, was 12 per cent. Are we at last beginning to see an end to the continual rises in the number of children cases going before our courts? I certainly hope so.
In a desperately sad case a High Court judge has ruled that a terminally ill boy should be moved to a palliative care regime proposed by specialists, despite his parents’ objections. The boy was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2012 and is expected to live for three to six months. His parents had argued that doctors could still treat his symptoms, and his mother said she thought the tumour was slow growing, and she was worried about the side effects of chemotherapy and a “cocktail of painkillers”. However, specialists said that curative treatment was no longer possible. Mr Justice MacDonald was satisfied the boy’s prognosis was terminal and that the pain he was suffering could become unbearable if not treated. He said: “Neither the mother or the father in this case are anything other than loving parents who are simply trying to stay upright in the darkening storm which has engulfed their family.”
And finally Resolution, the association of family lawyers, has warned that the stress of dealing with a spouse who supported the opposing side in the Brexit referendum campaign could be the final straw for some couples whose relationships are already troubled. If that is true then goodness knows how many American marriages will be broken by the Trump victory…
Have a good weekend.