A Law Commission report, family court statistics and child maintenance: The last week in family law

The latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for November 2016, have been published by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, Cafcass. In that month the service received a total of 1,262 care applications, which is a 22% increase compared to those received in November 2015. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,586 new private law cases, which is a 7% increase on October 2015 levels.

The Law Commission has published a report on reform of the law relating to enforcement of family financial orders. The Commission recommends a package of reforms to make the law governing the enforcement of such orders more effective, efficient and accessible, and to strike a fairer balance between the interests of both parties. The recommended reforms include new powers for the courts to obtain information about debtors, making a wider range of assets available for enforcement purposes, and new “coercive orders” for the courts to use in appropriate cases, to apply pressure to debtors who can pay but are choosing not do so, by disqualifying debtors from driving and prohibiting them from travelling out of the UK.

The latest statistics on the family court, for the period July to September 2016, confirm the recent surge in child care applications. The number of care cases starting has increased by 21% over the last 12 months, to 4,932 in July to September. Similarly, the number of children involved in care applications increased by 20% over the same period, to 9,082. In all, 64,109 cases started in family courts in England and Wales in July to September 2016, a 4% increase from the equivalent quarter in 2015. The number of private law children cases started in July to September 2016 increased by 14% from the equivalent quarter in 2015 to 12,687.

Quarterly figures published by the Ministry of Justice and Legal Aid Agency show that applications for civil representation in private family law, supported by evidence of domestic abuse, rose by 26% between July and September, compared with the same period last year. It is believed that the increase may be due to a relaxation of the time limits for reporting domestic violence. In April this year the government announced that it was increasing the time limit, from two to five years.

The Department for Work and Pensions has published research which it says shows that the majority of separated parents using the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) are managing child support payments themselves. The CMS launched in 2012 and is designed to support separated families to come to their own financial arrangements. The research shows that 68% of parents with a Direct Pay arrangement – meaning the non-resident parent is paying their child maintenance directly to the receiving parent rather than via the CMS – had their arrangement in place 3 months after receiving their child maintenance calculation from the CMS, and that a year after setting up their arrangement, 62% of parents using the Direct Pay service still had that arrangement in place.

Labour’s shadow children’s minister Emma Lewell-Buck has said that the government has an “obsession” with adoption, and is neglecting other forms of care. Speaking during the committee stage of the Children and Social Work Bill, Lewell-Buck said the government’s focus on adoption was “to the detriment of all other forms of care”. “What the government should be doing”, she said, “is advocating the form of care that is right for every child, not what they believe is right”.

And finally, an American millionaire is seeking a greater share of a divorce settlement, on the basis that his ‘genius’ as a financial investor meant that the fortune he earned was so stellar that it entitled him to a greater than half share of the matrimonial assets. Last year Mr Justice Holman in the High Court rejected that argument and awarded the wife half of the assets. The husband has appealed against that decision, and his appeal will be heard by the Court of Appeal in February.