Child maintenance, divorce centres and more: The last two weeks in family law

The Department for Work and Pensions (‘DWP’) has published
statistics about the separated family population, to provide information on
child maintenance arrangements between parents in separated families. The
statistics, which are for the period April 2014 to March 2017, show that during
that time there were around 2.5 million separated families in Great Britain, and
that there were about 3.9 million children in those families. The statistics also
showed that in 2016/17 around 48% of those families had a child maintenance
arrangement, whether voluntary or arranged through the Child Maintenance
Service (‘CMS’).

The DWP has also published statistics on cases processed
under the current child maintenance scheme administered by the CMS, for the
period August 2013 to December 2018. These revealed that 671,300 children are
covered by CMS arrangements, 432,500 through ‘Direct Pay’ arrangements, where
the CMS calculates the amount of maintenance to be paid and the parents arrange
the payments between themselves, and 238,800 through the ‘Collect & Pay
Service’, where the CMS collects the maintenance. The statistics also revealed that
an estimated £237.4 million child maintenance was due to be paid between
October and December 2018, which was £45.8 million more than the same period in
2017.

Sir James Munby, the former President of the Family
Division, has criticised regional divorce centres for their inefficiency. In a
case relating to the setting aside of four divorces on the ground that the
petitions had been presented before the expiration of the period of one year
from the date of the marriage, Sir James commented that: “It is, unhappily,
notorious that some Regional Divorce Units have become bywords for delay and
inefficiency, essentially because HM Courts and Tribunals Service has been
unable or unwilling to furnish them with adequate numbers of staff and judges.”
The eleven regional centres were established in 2015, taking over the work of
dealing with divorce from more than a hundred divorce county courts spread across
England and Wales.

A judge has ruled that an eight year old boy should move to
live with his father, after finding that the mother had persistently portrayed
the father negatively, as violent, as mentally unwell, and denigrated him as
the father, and that the boy identified with these negative and hateful
feelings expressed by the mother. The judge concluded that the mother’s
behaviour was causing the boy significant emotional harm, and accordingly made
an order that he should immediately move to live with his father. The mother
appealed against the order, but her appeal was dismissed.

The mother of Jayden Parkinson, who was murdered by her
former boyfriend Ben Blakeley, has called for the establishment of a ‘domestic
abuse register’, which would contain details of perpetrators of domestic abuse,
violence and stalking. Blakeley, who had a history of violence against previous
partners, strangled Jayden, who was then aged 17 and pregnant with his child,
in 2013. He was later convicted of her murder, and jailed for a minimum of
twenty years. Jayden’s mother has told the BBC that a system similar to the sex
offenders register could have saved her daughter. She said that if Blakeley had
been on a register Jayden would “be here now, because for all the agencies at
the point when Jayden went missing, to them she was a pain-in-the-butt
teenager… and if that register had been here, and they’d all looked at it,
they’d have seen how vulnerable she was.”

And finally, research by a wealth planning company has found
that 550 couples with net financial wealth of one million pounds or more each
will divorce this year, and that these couples possess assets worth an average
of some £3.48 million each. The research found that on average about 43% of
those assets, worth more than one and a half million pounds, comprised private
pension wealth. Property wealth comprised 31% of the assets, worth on average
about one million pounds, financial wealth represented 20% of the assets, worth
on average about £700,000, and physical wealth represented 5% of the assets,
worth on average about £186,000.