Children’s services, online courts and divorce reform: The last week in family law

Children’s Services Require Additional Funding

Children’s services in England are at ‘breaking point’, and need a £3.1 billion minimum funding boost by 2025, a report by the House of Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee into the funding of local authorities’ children’s services has found. The report said that as services tried to respond to growing demand amid severe funding pressures, many were reliant on the goodwill of staff, as local authorities grappled with budget cuts of 29% since 2010. Clive Betts MP, who chairs the committee, commented: “Over the last decade we have seen a steady increase in the number of children needing support, whilst at the same time funding has failed to keep up. It is clear that this approach cannot be sustained and the government must make serious financial and systemic changes to support local authorities in helping vulnerable children. They must understand why demand is increasing and whether it can be reduced. They must ensure that the funding formula actually allows local authorities to meet the obligations for supporting children that the government places on them.” A spokesperson said the government was putting an extra £410m into social care this year, including children’s, alongside £84m over the next five years to keep more children at home with their families to reduce the demand on services.

Online Procedure Bill to Simplify Online Law Services

The Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill has had its first reading in the House of Lords. The Bill will set up a new judicially chaired committee, tasked with developing new, simplified rules around online services in civil, family and tribunal proceedings. It will also ensure that cases will be progressed more efficiently and allow financial savings made across the justice system. Ministry of Justice Spokesperson in the Lords, Lord Keen, said: “From appealing their tax bill online to applying for divorce, every single day people up and down the country are already taking advantage of our ambitious court reforms. This Bill will improve access to justice for all by providing clear and understandable rules to guide people through the many new digital processes we are introducing.” The Bill’s second reading is scheduled for the 14th of May. The committee will be set up as soon as possible after royal assent of the Bill.

Banker Suing His Former Wife for Rent

It has been reported that a wealthy banker is suing his former wife for half a million pounds in rent which he claims she should have paid him for occupying the former matrimonial home. Kerim Derhalli and his ex-wife Jayne Richardson Derhalli were divorced in 2016. They agreed a financial/property settlement, under which Mrs Derhalli received around £6.5 million from Mr Derhalli, and was due another £5 million after completion of the sale of the home, which was owned by Mr Derhalli. Mrs Derhalli remained in occupation of the property, rent-free. However, the sale was delayed, and in March 2017 Mr Derhalli’s lawyers requested that Mrs Derhalli either vacate the property, or start paying rent for her occupation. She refused, and remained in the property until it was sold earlier this year. Mr Derhalli subsequently sued Mrs Derhalli for unpaid rent, at £20,000 a month for the two years she remained in the property after being asked to leave. In an initial judgment Judge Nigel Gerald ruled that Mrs Derhalli “could be considered a trespasser from 21 April 2017 since when she remains liable to pay for the use and occupation of the property”. A further hearing will take place to determine the amount of rent Mrs Derhalli will have to pay.

MP Speaks Out on Plans for “No-Fault” Divorce

And finally, an MP who is a solicitor has spoken out against the government’s plans to introduce no-fault divorce. Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton, believes that the new law risks an unexpectedly large spike in the number of divorce cases. She told the Law Society Gazette that the government ignored warnings that the changes will make divorce easier, and said: “The removal of fault sends out the signal that marriage can be unilaterally exited on notice by one party with little, if any, available recourse for the party who has been left. There will be far less pressure, or incentive, to work at the relationship in such circumstances.

If you need assistance in divorce matters, childcare arrangements, financial agreements during (or after) divorce or any other family law matters, please get in touch with our friendly team at Prince Family Law who will be happy to help.

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