A week in family law: child maintenance, divorce tourism and Cafcass figures

Family Law|November 15th 2019

John Bolch shares his views on this week in family law.

Child maintenance statistics

The Department for Work and Pensions has published the latest statistics, up to August 2019, providing data on the child maintenance arrangements made by separated parents after speaking to the Child Maintenance Options (‘CM Options’) service. CM Options is a free service that provides impartial information and support to help parents make informed choices about child maintenance. One of the primary intentions of the Options service is to encourage parents, where possible, to set up a family-based arrangement, i.e. an arrangement agreed between the parents, rather than an arrangement through the Child Maintenance Service (‘CMS’).

The statistics show that overall, 174,313 parents had a conversation with Options between February 2018 and January 2019.

Between February 2018 and October 2018 CM Options helped parents set-up 21,500 family-based arrangements, and 83% of these were still in place in August 2019.

60% of parents who contacted Options between February and October 2018 said their arrangement with the CMS was working well in August 2019, and 90% of parents who contacted Options between February and October 2018 said their family-based arrangement was working well in August 2019.

In August 2019, 38,900 children were on functioning family-based arrangements set up after contact with Options between February and October 2018, and 13,400 children were on functioning family-based arrangements set up after contact with Options between November 2018 and January 2019.

Being somewhat sceptical about the current iteration of the child support/maintenance system, which appears to me to be designed primarily to cast the government in a better light than the previous, failed, systems, rather than to provide children with the maintenance they need, I will make no comment upon these figures.

Divorce tourism

As I discussed here in this post, a Russian billionaire has succeeded in having his ex-wife’s financial relief claim dismissed. Natalia Potanina divorced her ex-husband Vladmir Potanin in Russia, in 2014. She claimed that Mr Potanin was worth some $20 billion, but she said that she was only awarded some $40 million by the Russian court. She later purchased a flat in London and applied

to the English court for leave to apply for financial relief, believing that the Russian court had treated her unfairly and that the English court would make a more generous award in her favour. As I explained in my post, the English Court can grant financial relief after a foreign divorce, if it believes that would be appropriate. When considering this, the English court must consider a number of factors, including the connection which the parties have with England and Wales. The English court made an order granting the Mrs Potanina leave, but Mr Potanin applied to have the order set aside.

Hearing the application in the High Court, Mr Justice Cohen found that Mr Potanin had no connection with this country and that Mrs Potanina had no significant, if any, connection during the marriage (she purchased a flat in London after the divorce). He, therefore, dismissed Mrs Potanina’s application, saying that if the claim was allowed to proceed then there was

“effectively no limit to divorce tourism.”

Mrs Potanina is apparently intending to appeal, but it seems to me that unless there is something more to this case, this is a very sensible decision, even if it means, as Mrs Potanina claims, that she has been very unfairly treated in the divorce settlement. Certainly, the decision appears to have been favourably received by many divorce lawyers.

Cafcass figures

And finally, the latest figures for public law (including care) applications and private law demand, for October 2019, have been published by Cafcass. In that month the service received a total of 1,635 new care applications, six fewer than in the same month last year. Cafcass has received 10,854 new public law cases from April to October 2019 – 109 (1 per cent) less than the same period in 2018.

These cases involved 17,550 children – 570 (3.2 per cent) less than April to October 2018. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 4,361 new private law cases in September, 379 more than the same month last year.

Cafcass received 27,316 new private law cases from April to October 2019 – 1,788 (7.0%) more than the same period in 2018. These cases involved 40,511 children – 1,583 (4.1%) more than April to October 2018. We continue to be fixed in a situation of falling public law demand, but increasing private law demand.

Have a good weekend

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If you would like any advice on divorce or other family law issues please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here. 

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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