Latest insights from our experts

Posted 1 February 2016
by Tracy Lambert

Tozers Family Law Briefing – Winter 2016 Edition



Family Law Briefing: Winter Edition

 

 

Second reading of “no fault” divorce Bill postponed

The second reading of the No Fault Divorce Bill which seeks to introduce a new ground for divorce has been postponed from 22 January to 11 March 2016.

 

MPs will debate the proposed reforms which would result in divorce being available upon submission of a joint petition. A corresponding amendment in respect of dissolution of civil partnerships would also be made.

 

House of Commons calls for extension of civil partnerships

Following the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign and proposed amendments to the current law surrounding civil partnerships, the House of Commons hosted a panel to explore the issue.

Unmarried opposite sex couples are the fastest growing family type in the UK and there are now calls to recognise and offer legal protection to such couples that do not wish to enter into a marriage.

 

Outdated Marriage Law Needs Reform

In a paper published in December 2015, the Law Commission have said that the existing marriage law is outdated and restrictive and does not serve modern society. It proposes a complete reform of the law surrounding marriage although has made no specific proposals at this stage.

 

Where and how marriages can take place is very tightly controlled. Civil marriages must happen in a register office or approved premises and no religious content is allowed. Religious ceremonies must generally take place within a registered place of worship. Many people would like the opportunity to marry somewhere personal to them, including outdoors.

 

The Commission considers that people should be able to marry in accordance with their own beliefs and wishes.

 

Further rises in court fees

A draft Statutory Instrument has been released providing for:

  • The fee for filing a divorce petition to rise from £410 to £550;
  • The fee for filing an on notice application where no other fee is specified to rise from £155 to £255; and
  • The fee for an application made either by consent or without notice where no other fee is specified to rise from £50 to £100.
  • It is not yet known when or whether these fee changes will come into effect.

 

Relate to launch online dispute resolution service in the Spring
The first online dispute resolution system for separating couples in the UK is to be launched by Relate in the spring.
It is going to be based on an existing Dutch system. It has been developed by specialists with the assistance of family lawyers from Resolution. Relate have received no government funding for the project.
It is a technology-facilitated negotiation process, which would not require the involvement of mediators or lawyers.

 

We would however encourage parties to seek legal advice before finalising any financial agreements.
Domestic Violence

DV rates increasing since 2009

 

A new method of analysing crime statistics has found that violent crime in the UK is increasing. Specifically the rate of domestic violence which has been almost doubling every year since 2009.

 

Scottish Government urged to reconsider law on forced marriage

Herald Scotland has reported that the criminalisation of forced marriage in Scotland has resulted in fewer victims coming forward for support.

 

Freedom of information requests show that no person has been charged or prosecuted for an offence under the Scottish law in its first year.

 

In England and Wales, the first successful conviction was reported in June 2015.

 

Women’s support groups have reported a fall in referrals since the law came into force in September 2014.

 

Children – Private & Public Law

12% increase in private law cases – Cafcass

 

Figures released by Cafcass show that private law children applications (applications relating to child arrangement orders) received in December 2015 increased by 12% compared to December 2014. A total of 2,991 applications were received.

 

At least one in four mums return to court

New research has found that at least a quarter of mums who have lost a child through a court order will return to court in relation to another child. For women who were teenagers at the birth of their first child, the figure increases to a third.

 

The study uses records from Cafcass from 2007 to 2014.

 

The research team at Nuffield Foundation found more than 13,000 infants were the subject of legal proceedings at or close to birth between 2007 and 2014.

 

The report highlights that once a first child has been removed from its mother, the next time around the child is likely to be removed from the mother’s care closer to birth and much more likely to be adopted.

 

17% increase in public law cases – Cafcass

 

Figures released by Cafcass show that care applications received in December 2015 increased by 17% compared to December 2014. A total of 1092 care applications were received.

 

Completion times for care proceedings in Wales cut by more than 50%

Nearly 77% of cases in family courts in wales are completed within the 26 week time limit. Cafcass has helped to cut the average completion time from 57 weeks in 2011/12 to less than 26 in 2014/15.

 

Changes to Adoption Legislation

In an attempt to increase adoption level in England the government announced in January 2016 that it will be changing the law to make sure courts and local authorities prioritise permanence when making placement decisions.

 

The law will be changed to make sure certain adoption placements are made on the basis of whether they will provide care until the child turns 18.

 

Other strategies include extending the adoption support fund over the next 4 years. Over £200million will be invested.

 

 

 

At Tozers Solicitors LLP we act for clients as solicitors in Teignmouth, Devon, the South West and nationally. Should you or a family member wish to discuss a potential claim, please call our specialist team for a free and confidential consultation.

 

 

 

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About the author

Tracy Lambert

Partner

Partner based in Exeter's family team