DWP figures, pensions and more

Family Law|February 10th 2017

A week in family law

A husband who complained that the court failed to have sufficient regard to his ex-wife’s delay in applying for a financial remedies order has had his appeal against the order dismissed. In the case Briers v Briers the parties were divorced in 2005, but the wife did not issue her application until 2013. The Court of Appeal held that the judge had correctly approached the issue of delay by taking it into account in assessing how much the wife was entitled to. The judge had discounted the wife’s award so that instead of receiving half of the assets she only received between 27 per cent and 30 per cent.

In another Court of Appeal case the ex-husband of a woman who was awarded £230,000 on her divorce has been told he must support her for life, according to various headlines this week. When she divorced her husband Graham in 2002 Maria Mills was awarded a £230,000 lump sum and £1,100 per month maintenance payments. However, she admitted that she “unwisely invested” the lump sum, leaving her in debt and “unable to meet her basic needs”. The Court of Appeal therefore ordered that the maintenance be increased to £1,441 per month. In fact, as I understand it without having seen the law report, Mr Mills had originally agreed that the maintenance could last for the rest of Mrs Mills’ life, unless she remarried or the court ordered otherwise. Accordingly the Court of Appeal did not actually alter the duration of the order.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been urged to stop the practice of GPs charging victims of domestic violence up to £175 for a medical letter to prove that they were abused. The victims require the letter (or other evidence of abuse) so that they can obtain legal aid.

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson said:

“Help for victims of domestic violence should never come at a price. I have requested an urgent meeting with ministers to put an end to this practice. The government should scrap this unfair, immoral fee now. It has to stop.”

For once I have to agree with him – I had no idea that some GPs are charging such a sum.

“DWP boasts of 15,000 voluntary maintenance arrangements” was the excellent headline to this post here yesterday, reporting the announcement by the Department for Work and Pensions that:

“The parents of more than 15,900 children have set up ‘family-based arrangements’ for paying child maintenance after receiving information and support from Child Maintenance Options, which was set up in 2008 to help separated parents work together in the best interests of their children.”

Now, I’ve not looked into this figure (I can’t really be bothered with continually checking everything that the DWP say about their wonderful new child maintenance scheme), but 15,900 children doesn’t sound to me like an awful lot. Of course, as with so many things these days, it is not about whether something is good, it is all about whether it looks good. Accordingly a little boasting about figures that mean nothing to most people can go a long way towards making the government’s reform of the failing child support maintenance scheme look like it’s working really well.

The Supreme Court has ruled that a woman who lived with her late partner but did not marry him is entitled to receive a survivor’s pension under his pension scheme, despite the fact that he did not nominate her to receive the pension. The ruling means that cohabitees will be treated the same as married couples, for whom no nomination is required for the survivor to receive a widow/widower’s pension.

The ruling generally seems to have been welcomed, including by Marilyn Stowe, who said:

“It doesn’t devalue marriage. It simply removes an unnecessary layer of regulation that doesn’t apply to marriage or civil partnership”.

And finally, the saddest story of the week, at least for this lover of all things to do with space travel, is the one about the husband who may have to sell his ticket to space with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, in order to pay for his divorce settlement. Now that hurts…

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. Andrew says:

    Briers is yet another case which proves the need for a limitation period. It should be three years, as in p.i., but without the discretionary extension – divorced people should know when they can move on with their lives and for example take on new commitments.

    The only exception should be the case where service of the petition was dispensed with – then the time should run from when the Respondent knows about the divorce.

  2. Nellie says:

    Thanks marilynstowe for sharing such useful information regarding the cases handles by DWP. One of my friends is also going through the same, I am definitely going to recommend this to her so that she gets the best settlement result with her husband.

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