Counselling, domestic violence and marriage: The last week in family law

A new survey has revealed that less than one in four couples seek professional counselling to try to save their marriage when their relationship is in difficulties. The research found that while 37% of such couples said they thought counselling would help, only 23% actively sought help. The survey of 2,000 people also revealed that on average couples sought counselling for four months with 12% saying it helped to save their marriage. However, the statistics also showed that gender played a part in the difference in attitudes to counselling with 45% of females believing that it would help save a relationship compared with just 28% of men.

A multi-million pound divorce between a wealthy Malaysian couple can be heard in an English court, Mr Justice Bodey has ruled. Laura Ashley boss Khoo Kay Peng and former beauty queen Pauline Chai have already spent £2 million disputing which court should rule how their money is divided. Ms Chai says her husband is worth £440m, something Dr Peng denies. The divorce could be one of England’s most expensive after Mr Justice Bodey said it could be heard in either England or Malaysia.  He said he was “urging the parties with all the strength I can muster” to redouble their efforts “to reach a financial accommodation” and avoid the nightmare of a legal battle in two jurisdictions.

The charity Early Intervention Foundation has claimed that not enough support is being offered to the one in four children experts say will witness domestic violence by the age of eighteen. There are no national rules stating what services children who see violence at home should receive. The Foundation says that this can have “significant consequences” for those children not getting the support they need. The Government, meanwhile, says that it has invested £54 million in child psychology therapies.

A High Court family judge has called for the abolition of the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage. In a speech to a family law conference Sir Nicholas Mostyn said that there was no difference between the relationships of married and unmarried couples, and condemned the divorce system that gives special protection to wives. He said that state support for marriage was ‘social engineering’ and that there was no evidence to show a married relationship was more stable than cohabitation. “I do not support two classes of adjudication depending on whether there happens to be a marriage,” he said, “I support the extension of the existing system of judicial equitable distribution to the unmarried, warts and all.”

The Government is moving forward with a proposal to introduce a civil protection order for potential victims of female genital mutilation (‘FGM’). The order could include, for example, a requirement for a passport to be surrendered to prevent a girl being taken abroad for FGM. The object of the order would be to strengthen the protection for victims or potential victims of FGM and help prevent FGM from happening in the first place. Victims, potential victims or third parties, including teachers, carers, social workers, local authorities or friends, who believe there is a real risk of FGM taking place will be able to apply to the court for an order.

And finally, the Government has set aside £3 million to fund projects aimed at breaking the cycle of births and repeat care proceedings, after the Nuffield Foundation released statistics in June saying that one in three care applications come from ‘repeat clients’ – women who have already had at least one child taken into care. It is hoped that the radical new projects will be of benefit to all, not only the young women and children affected by care proceedings, but also local authorities, the legal system and the whole of society. The projects work by reducing the number of pregnancies in vulnerable women who are likely to become involved in care proceedings.