Cafcass, child maintenance and unrepresented parents: The last week in family law

Cafcass has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for September 2014. In that month Cafcass received a total of 902 care applications, representing a 7% increase compared to those received in September 2013. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 2,858 new private law cases, which is a 25% decrease on September 2013 levels, reflecting the continuing effect of the abolition of legal aid in April 2013.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee had published its ‘early progress’ report on the child maintenance 2012 scheme. The Committee found that there is a “worrying uncertainty” around the impact that the introduction of charges for statutory child maintenance services will have. The report has been welcomed by single parent charity Gingerbread, which has warned the government that the charge could see the numbers of children getting child maintenance fall.

The chief executive of National Family Mediation, England and Wales’ largest provider of family mediation, has called for closer practical collaboration between lawyers and family mediators. In a speech to Birmingham Law Society, Jane Robey acknowledged “gaps” that have sprung up between the interests of professional mediators and solicitors, but said: “What family mediators want is a genuine partnership with members of the legal profession to help people get to quality legal advice on the options for their futures that they have developed in mediation.”

New government figures have revealed that over sixty percent of parents are now without a lawyer when going to court to contest arrangements for their children. The figures, revealed under a freedom of information request, show that between April and June 2014, 12,554 parents out of a total of 20,126 in England and Wales went to court without a lawyer. Prior to legal aid being withdrawn for most private law family disputes, the proportion of unrepresented parents at court stood at 42% in 2012/13. The latest quarterly figures for 2014/15 show this has increased to 62%.

The office of the President of the Family Division has indicated that section 11 of the Children and Families Act 2014 will come into force on the 22nd of October. Section 11 introduces the ‘presumption of parental involvement’, whereby the court in proceedings relating to a child should presume, unless the contrary is shown, that involvement of each parent in the life of the child concerned will further the child’s welfare. Section 11 will not apply to proceedings commenced prior to the 22nd of October.

And finally, a wife who sacrificed her successful business career to become a housewife has gone to the Court of Appeal to seek a larger share of her husband’s £11 million fortune. Julia Hammans claims that despite their initial equality, her income is now ten times smaller than his. While her husband, Nicholas Hammans, went on to become a multi-millionaire partner at Price Waterhouse Coopers, sometimes earning more than £900,000 a year, she is being forced to sell the £1.75m family home. She said their divorce left her in a “radically different” position and that she should be entitled to compensation for giving up her potential earnings. The Court of Appeal has reserved its judgment, which will be handed down at a later date.