Divorce, cohabitation and child maintenance: The last week in family law

New research has been published by the Marriage Foundation which they say indicates that the majority (60 per cent) of divorced couples were happy with their relationship only a year prior to their separation. The Foundation believe that the data suggests that many couples give up on their relationships too easily. Only 40 per cent of married couples reported they were unhappy before their split and just nine per cent could be described as frequently arguing, high-conflict couples. Among non-married couples, the proportion of happy couples before separation was even higher at 80 per cent. Harry Benson, Research Director of Marriage Foundation, commented: “A solid majority of couples are satisfied with their marriages a year before they separate. Then something happens – a big row, financial pressure, wider family tensions – and they decide to call it a day and call the lawyers … This research suggests the majority of divorces are salvageable. We need a shift away from this consumer, if-it’s-difficult-throw-it-out culture. Good, strong relationships are the surest way to make us happy and healthy, but they do require hard work.”

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that the cohabiting couple family continues to be the fastest growing family type in the UK in 2015. The statistics show that cohabiting couple families in the UK have reached 3.2 million in 2015, representing an increase of 29.7% between 2005 and 2015. There were 3.1 million opposite sex cohabiting couple families and 90,000 same sex cohabiting couple families in the UK in 2015. Together, cohabiting couple families account for 17% of all families in the UK. For opposite sex cohabiting couple families, there has been a statistically significant increase from 14% of all families in 2005 to 17% in 2015. Same sex cohabiting couple families as a percentage of all families also saw an increase over the same time period (0.3% to 0.5%).

New figures from the Child Maintenance Service reveal that, less than two years after the Child Maintenance Service (‘CMS’) opened its doors to all new applicants, £35m of arrears owed to children has accumulated. Responding to the figures, which were for the period August 2013 to August 2015, Gingerbread’s Chief Executive, Fiona Weir, said: “These statistics raise questions about how seriously the new CMS is taking the non-payment of maintenance owed to children. With more than half of ‘paying’ parents associated with the maintenance arrears, this is disappointing for a new service where there is a clear government commitment to ensuring that children receive their child maintenance payments on time and in full. When maintenance doesn’t arrive, it means bills can’t get paid and children end up going without. At a time when many single parents are facing tax credit cuts, high childcare costs and a range of other welfare reforms, the money separated parents pay to support their children matters more than ever.” Gingerbread also said that the figures come against a backdrop where a further £1bn of child maintenance arrears owed to children in existing Child Support Agency cases are going to be transferred to the CMS over the next three years for collection, raising questions about just how ready the CMS is to take on this load.

And finally Sarah Pursglove, the wife of internet tycoon Robert Oesterlund, has launched divorce proceedings seeking half of her and her husband’s fortune, which she claims to be worth £300 million. Miss Pursglove’s marriage broke down after her husband left her to live with their interior designer. As one national newspaper put it: “At £150 million, it could be the most expensive decorating job in history.”