Contributions, inheritance and more

Family Law|March 17th 2017

A week in family law

Cafcass – the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service – has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for Febuary 2017. In that month the service received a total of 1,134 care applications, which is an 8 per cent decrease compared to those received in February 2016. This is only the second decrease in year-on-year monthly figures since May 2014. As to private law demand, however, Cafcass received a total of 3,414 new private law cases, which is a 3 per cent increase on February 2016 levels. Are we finally turning the corner? Only time will tell.

Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division, has told a Family Justice Council event that judges should not be required to justify their judgments, except in the context of the Court of Appeal. In response to a question from the audience on the judiciary’s involvement in serious case reviews, he said: “Judges explain their reasoning in their judgments. They are fair game for comment and criticism however vehemently and harshly expressed. But to challenge a judgment you go to the Court of Appeal.” He continued: “The principle that you do not justify your judgments is of importance. If you let that principle go… where does it stop? … There’s an absolute line. If one crosses that absolute line the potential implications are very serious. You will end up with “why is the judge not prepared to come on Newsnight or Panorama to explain what happened?”” Yes, I wonder what would happen if a judge was to appear on Newsnight to explain his decision

Following the completion of their divorce the financial remedies hearing between Pauline Chai and Laura Ashley boss Dr Khoo Kay Peng has begun in the High Court, before Mr Justice Bodey. It has been reported that Ms Chai is arguing that her contribution towards the marriage in terms of looking after the family home and bringing up the children equalled her Dr Khoo’s contribution, in amassing a fortune that she claims is worth at least £205 million. Accordingly, she believes that she is entitled to a full half share of that fortune. Dr Khoo, on the other hand, maintains that Ms Chai should only be entitled to about £9 million. The couple have already spent more than £6 million on lawyers since their marriage broke down, and Mr Justice Bodey has urged them to settle their differences and reach an agreement. I hope they do, but the history of the case does not give rise to optimism. As I suggested here, the case raises issues regarding equating the differing contributions of the breadwinner and the homemaker.

The Office for National Statistics has released its latest statistics for marriages in England and Wales, for the year 2014. I’ve seen various headlines about the statistics, but perhaps the main one is that they indicate that people are marrying later than ever before. Whether or not this is a good thing, I really don’t know. I suppose it depends upon your point of view, just as whether the statistic that more people got married than in the previous year is a good thing depends upon how you value marriage. Personally, I can’t find myself getting excited about any marriage statistics.

As has been reported (just about everywhere) the Supreme Court has allowed the appeal of the three animal charities in the Ilott case. I don’t think I need to rehearse the judgment again here, but suffice to say that the Supreme Court has emphasised the limited circumstances in which the courts may interfere with the wishes of the testator. As an advocate of testamentary freedom, not to mention an animal lover, I find myself quite liking the decision.

And finally, despite the learned pronouncements of the Supreme Court justices the really big story of the week was of course the news that research has shown that good looking people are more likely to divorce. A researcher warned that “being physically attractive is not without its liabilities”. Yes, I can certainly empathise with that…

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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