A week in family law – Civil partnerships, child support and more

Family Law|Industry News|August 24th 2018

A quiet week, as is invariably the case at this time of year, but I have found a couple of things that hopefully are of interest…

Firstly, as reported here by Graham Coy, Partner in Stowe Family Law’s London office, the latest annual statistics on formations and dissolutions of civil partnerships have been published by the Office for National Statistics. Amongst the main points were that there were just 908 civil partnerships formed in England and Wales in 2017, an increase of 2.0% compared with 2016, and the second annual increase since the introduction of marriages of same-sex couples was announced in 2013; that almost two-thirds (66%) of all civil partnerships formed in 2017 were between men; and that more than half (51%) of those entering a civil partnership in 2017 were aged 50 years and over, compared with 19% in 2013, prior to the introduction of marriages of same-sex couples. As Graham said, the Government must now decide whether to extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples or abolish them altogether, and these statistics may encourage it to do the latter.

Secondly, the Child Poverty Action Group (‘CPAG’), has published its latest Cost of a Child report, showing what it costs to raise a child to age 18, based on what the public thinks is a minimum standard of living. The report says that the overall cost of a child (including rent and childcare) is £150,753 for a couple and £183,335 for a lone parent. A combination of rising prices, benefits and tax credits freezes, the introduction of the benefit cap and two-child limit, the bedroom tax, cuts to housing benefits and the rolling out of universal credit have hit family budgets hard, CPAG say. As a result, life has been getting progressively tougher for families on low or modest incomes over the past ten years, with families on in-work and out-of-work benefits hardest hit. Even families with two parents currently working full time on the ‘national living wage’ are 11% (£49 per week) short of the income the public defines as an acceptable, no-frills living standard. For lone parents, even a reasonably paid job (on median earnings) will leave them 15% (£56 per week) short of an adequate income because of the high cost of childcare. A lone parent working full-time on the ‘national living wage’ will be 20% (£74 per week) short of what they need to achieve a minimum standard of living. Shocking figures, showing in particular the effect of separation upon parents of modest means

Thirdly, and still on the subject of child costs, the Department for Work and Pensions has published the latest quarterly statistics on the progress of the Child Support Agency (‘CSA’) child support schemes, to June 2018. There is not, in fact, much to report. As regular readers will know, in 2012 the Child Maintenance Service was created to replace the CSA. Cases managed by the CSA are being closed and all new applications for child maintenance are dealt with by the Service. The statistics tell us that 99.5% of the CSA’s caseload have had their liability ended. Just 3,700 of the total caseload still have a current liability, and these cases are due to have their liability ended through the case closure process. Soon the nightmare that was the CSA will finally be ended. Not that its replacement is as great as the government would have you think…

And finally, a little story for the summer bank holiday weekend, that I stumbled across the other day. The story concerns a pink house on the Plum Island Turnpike, Newbury, Massachusetts. The house was apparently built by a husband back in the 1920s, as part of a divorce agreement. The agreement stipulated that the husband should build the house, which was a replica of the family home, for the wife to live in. Unfortunately for the wife, the agreement did not specify where the house should be built, so in a last act of spite against the wife the husband built it on a remote salt marsh, where even the plumbing used salt water, making the house uninhabitable. The clear moral of the story is: when drafting your divorce settlement, make sure you cover every eventuality!

Enjoy your long weekend.

Author: John Bolch

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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