Weekly Family Law Update October 14, 2020

Child maintenance, an unprecedented application, a new FDAC and more

Child Maintenance Service statistics

The Department for Work and Pensions (‘DWP’) has published the latest statistics for the Child Maintenance Service (‘CMS’), for the quarter to June 2020.

The statistics show that there are now 741,200 children covered by CMS arrangements, 474,700 through Direct Pay arrangements (where the CMS calculates the amount of maintenance to be paid and parents arrange the payments between themselves), 54,400 through the Collect and Pay Service (where the CMS collects the payments), and 12,100 not yet assigned to a service.

The statistics also show that 74% of parents due to pay child maintenance through the Collect and Pay service paid some maintenance in the quarter ending June 2020. This is an increase from 68% in the quarter ending March 2020, but the DWP says that this should be viewed with caution, as the compliance rate has been inflated this quarter as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

41 year-old man loses claim for financial support from parents

A 41 year-old man has had an ‘unprecedented’ application for financial support from his parents dismissed by the Family Court.  The man claimed that, whether wittingly or unwittingly, his parents had nurtured his dependency on them for the last twenty years or so, with the consequence that he is now completely dependent on them.

However, his relationship with his parents had deteriorated recently, and their support for him reduced, hence his application.  However, Sir James Munby, hearing the application, decided that the man had no case, and therefore the application was dismissed.

Black Country Family, Drug and Alcohol Court launched

The UK’s 10th Family, Drug and Alcohol Court (‘FDAC’) has been launched in the Midlands.  The Black Country FDAC, which covers the Walsall, Sandwell and Dudley areas, was officially opened on the 28th of September.  First piloted in London in January 2008, the UK now has 10 specialist FDAC teams, working in 13 venues and serving families in 20 local authorities. 

In them, a specialist multi-disciplinary team works closely with the judge and other professionals to provide intensive treatment and support for parents wishing to turn their lives around, helping them abstain from drugs and alcohol, thus enabling more children to be reunified with their parents.

Mrs Justice Knowles, Family Liaison Judge for the Midland Circuit, said: “FDACs are the formative problem-solving courts – intensive and time limited within family proceedings, they work with families to facilitate change and ultimately safeguard the welfare of children. FDACs require a significant commitment from both local authorities and the judiciary as families have intensive multi-disciplinary support throughout the process and they meet with Judges every fortnight to ensure that progress is monitored.

During the last decade FDACs have continued to demonstrate positive outcomes for families in Family Care proceedings and are now well recognised as an important alternative for these difficult cases.  “Evaluation of FDACs is ongoing but has to date demonstrated the long term benefits as more children stay with their parents, 35% compared with 19% in non FDAC proceedings. Families also return to court less often with research finding that a year after care proceedings concluded 25% of FDAC families were reporting further neglect or abuse compared to 56% of comparison families.”

Contacts to NSPCC helpline about domestic abuse up by nearly half

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (‘NSPCC’) has reported that since the introduction of national lockdown measures, the number of contacts to its helpline from people concerned about children living in homes with domestic abuse rose by 49%.

The latest figures show that between April and September 2020, more than 4,500 concerns were raised by members of the public, with 818 contacts in August alone.  The NSPCC say that these numbers are backed up by the experiences of their frontline staff who work with mothers and children facing domestic abuse at home.

The charity is calling for a legal requirement for local authorities to provide specialist support services for children living with domestic abuse. Such services, they say, are crucial in helping children recover from domestic abuse and move forward with their lives.