Appeals and pensions: The last week in family law

Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division, has urged parents to do more to ensure that fractious and rebellious teenagers do what they “ought” to be doing. His comments came in his judgment in the Court of Appeal case Re H-B (Contact). The case concerned a father’s appeal against the refusal of his application for direct contact with his two daughters, who were against contact taking place. The President also urged the parents to seek to effect a reconciliation between the father and the daughters, saying that if this did not happen then everyone involved would be losers.

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal has confirmed that in cases concerning arrangements for children there is no presumption in favour of a natural parent. In Re E-R (A Child), the child lived with the mother after the parents separated. In 2011 the mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. As her condition worsened she increasingly relied upon the support of her friends the appellants, a husband and wife. In June 2014 the mother and child moved in to live with the appellants and the wife has been the child’s primary carer for the last ten months. The mother made it clear that she wanted the appellants to look after the child after her death, and appointed them testamentary guardians of the child. Meanwhile, the father had moved to another part of the country after the separation and lost contact with the child until November 2014. In anticipation of the mother’s death, the wife applied for a special guardianship order. The application was heard in January 2015. The judge, under the impression that there was a presumption in favour of the natural parent, dismissed the application and made a child arrangements order providing for the child to live with the father after the mother’s anticipated death. The appellants appealed against the child arrangements order, primarily on the grounds that the judge had erred in law, in considering that there was a presumption in favour of a natural parent. The Court of Appeal agreed, and allowed the appeal.

According to research from Prudential, people planning to retire this year who have previously been divorced will be taking a hit of £2,100 per year on average in their expected retirement income. The research found that for the divorcees, the average expected retirement income is £15,700 compared with £17,800 for those who have not been through a marriage breakdown. One in five divorcees will retire with outstanding debts, averaging £22,100. Those who have never divorced will carry a slightly smaller debt burden into retirement (average debts of £21,700). Divorce could also be pushing more retirees into poverty, as 19 per cent of those who have split from a partner end up on an income below £9,500, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation minimum income standard for a single pensioner. This compares with 14 per cent of those who have never divorced. Prudential also found that divorcees are more likely to delay the date of their retirement, with 13 per cent saying they would do so compared with 11 per cent who have never divorced.

The Privy Council has allowed an appeal by a wife against the refusal by the Jamaican Court of Appeal of her appeal against a financial remedies decision of the Jamaican Supreme Court. The President of the Jamaican Court of Appeal had held that a party who had remarried ought not to be expected to continue to maintain the other party of the dissolved marriage indefinitely. Giving the judgment of the Privy Council, Lord Wilson held that this was not an accurate statement of the law. The accurate statement is that any legal obligation of the husband to provide support for another person is one of the matters, but no more than one of the matters, which the court is required to consider.

And finally, according to research by the pro-marriage ‘think tank’ the Marriage Foundation over the last thirty-five years up to 1.8 million more children have been born into families that are breaking down as a result of the trend away from marriage. They say that since 1980 the proportion of children born to married couples has fallen from 88 per cent to 53 per cent, and that over the same period family breakdown has increased by 44 per cent in England and Wales.