Court fees, FGM and a north-south divide: The last week in family law

The Ministry of Justice (‘MoJ’) has announced plans to increase court fees. Under the proposals, the fee for issuing divorce proceedings will increase, from £410 to £550. Explaining the MoJ’s proposals in a letter to Robert Neill, chair of the commons justice committee, justice minister Shailesh Varma acknowledged that fee increases were not popular, but said the courts and tribunals ‘must continue to play their part’ in the ‘national effort’ to reduce public spending, eliminate the deficit and reduce the national debt. It is estimated that the measures would generate £48m a year in additional income.

According to new figures obtained by the Centre for Social Justice (‘CSJ’), almost a thousand children in care have attended three or more schools within a single academic year. The CSJ says that the data shows shocking instability for hundreds of vulnerable young people across England. In some local authorities, nearly one in ten children in care moved schools on average once a term or more, with some students attending five schools or more in one academic year. Among students in their critical GCSE year, more than 10 per cent of students in the worst five local authority areas moved schools on average once a term or more, with almost a third of students attending three schools in their GCSE year in Milton Keynes. Alex Burghart, Policy Director of the CSJ, commented that care leaders should want the same outcomes for children in care as they would want for their own children.

An ex-wife who refused to vacate her former matrimonial home so that it could be sold, as ordered by the court, has lost her appeal. Therese St Clair Marshall had sought to have the order overturned in the Court of Appeal, but her appeal was dismissed. Giving judgment, Lord Justice MacFarlane said that there was no merit in Mrs Marshall’s appeal and that the order had to be enforced so that it was respected, and so that the couple could move on.

The High Court has issued a female genital mutilation (‘FGM’) protection order against a father of three girls aged six, nine and 12 years. The mother of the girls, who had herself been subject to FGM, gave evidence that the father had been subjecting her to pressure to have the procedure performed on their daughters. Both parents are Nigerian. Zimran Samuel, a barrister representing the girls’ mother, told the judge that the girls’ father had been “putting pressure” on the mother to have the procedure done in the UK or in Nigeria. FGM is illegal in both countries. The FGM protection order is a new legal power that came into force in the UK this month to stop the practice, and the sisters are one of the first few cases of such an order being granted.

And finally, it has been claimed that an unofficial north-south divide in how divorces are arranged is driving growing numbers of wives to have their cases heard in London, in the hope of a more generous financial/property settlement. It is suggested that provincial opposition to the idea of providing women with indefinite spousal maintenance has led to a growing perception that courts in London are likely to award more lucrative maintenance payments to women that do not run out after a fixed period of time.