Cafcass figures, divorce reform and domestic violence: The last week in family law

The latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for August 2018, have been published by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (‘Cafcass’), the organisation that represents children in family court cases. In that month the service received a total of 1,179 new care applications. This is 5.1% lower than the figure for August 2017 and 51 applications fewer than August 2018. The total number of applications from January 2018 to August 2018 is 9,489 compared with 9,644 for the equivalent period in 2017. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 4,019 new private law cases. This is 10.5% increase on the August 2017 figure. Monthly private law demand in August exceeded 4,000 for the first time since July 2013.

The Justice Secretary David Gauke has confirmed that the Government plans to introduce a system of no-fault divorce. In a press release from the Ministry of Justice he said: “Marriage will always be one of our most important institutions, but when a relationship ends it cannot be right for the law to create or increase conflict between divorcing couples. That is why we will remove the archaic requirements to allege fault or show evidence of separation, making the process less acrimonious and helping families look to the future.” The proposals are set out in a government consultation launched on the 15th of September, and will apply to marriages and civil partnerships. Proposals detailed in the consultation include retaining the sole ground for divorce: the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage; removing the need to show evidence of the other spouse’s conduct, or a period of living apart; introducing a new notification process where one, or possibly both parties, can notify the court of the intention to divorce; and removing the opportunity for the other spouse to contest the divorce application. The consultation also seeks views on the minimum timeframe for the process between the interim decree of divorce (decree nisi) and final decree of divorce (decree absolute). This will allow couples time to reflect on the decision to divorce and to reach agreement on arrangements for the future where divorce is inevitable.

Male domestic violence victims lack support despite being the focus of an increased number of reported attacks, a charity has said. Police in England and Wales recorded 149,248 incidents in 2017 – more than double the number reported in 2012. The charity ManKind Initiative, which helps men escaping abuse, said that while a third of domestic abuse victims were men, only 0.8% of refuge beds were reserved for them. It said that although there were over 3,600 beds in safe houses for women, only 20 in the whole of England were set aside for men, with none at all in London. As a result, some men are forced to travel huge distances, sometimes over 150 miles, to get help. The ManKind Initiative is now calling for dedicated support for male victims to be established across the UK. Mark Brooks, a spokesman for the charity, said a “failure to ensure a basic level of support across the country will fail those men and, of course, fail their children where they are involved.”

And finally, a High Court judge has ordered that a husband may not pay any money to his solicitors, unless he pays the same amount to his wife’s solicitors. In the case the husband had failed to comply with various orders of the court, including an order to pay the sum of £40,000 per month to cover the wife’s legal costs. The husband claimed that he could not afford to make the payments, but he was able to pay the sum of £95,000 to his own solicitors. Hearing the case, Mr Justice Holman said that it was “intolerable and an affront to justice” that the husband had paid such a sum to his own solicitors, at the very time when he was already in arrears and getting further into arrears with his wife. Accordingly, he made an injunction prohibiting the husband from paying any further money to his solicitors unless he paid an equal amount (i.e. pound for pound) to the wife’s solicitors, in satisfaction of the sums he owed.