Legal aid, child abduction and dispute resolution: The last week in family law

According to a report from the National Audit Office, the Ministry of Justice is on track to meet its main objective of significantly reducing in a short timeframe spending on civil legal aid. However, it is less clear to what extent it has met its other objectives of reducing unnecessary litigation and targeting legal aid at those who need it most. The Office concluded that, in implementing its reforms, the Ministry of Justice did not think through early enough the impact of the changes on the wider system, and does not know whether people who are eligible for legal aid are able to get it.

The law relating to kidnapping, false imprisonment and child abduction is due for reform, according to the Law Commission. In a report published last Thursday, the Commission is recommending reforms that will clarify the offences of kidnapping and false imprisonment, and allow for the prosecution of parents who keep their children overseas in contravention of a court order or without permission of the other parent or guardian.

Young people feel their exam results are suffering as a direct result of parental break-up, according to a new survey of teens and young adults published by family lawyers’ association Resolution, to coincide with Family dispute Resolution Week. The survey of 14-22 year olds also finds that parental separation is leading young people to turn to alcohol and skipping lessons, while some admit to experimenting, or thinking about experimenting, with drugs. Chair of Resolution Jo Edwards said: “These new findings show the wide-ranging impact of divorce and separation on young people. It underlines just how important it is that parents going through a split manage their separation in a way that minimises the stress and impact on the entire family, especially children, otherwise their exam results could suffer. Divorce and separation is always traumatic, but there is a better way to deal with it.”

Also to coincide with Family Dispute Resolution Week Resolution has released research that shows that British workplaces are suffering as a result of divorce and separation. The research shows that 9% of people in the UK have either had to leave their job as a result of their own separation, or have seen a colleague move on for the same reason. According to Resolution, who commissioned the research, the stress of separation also has an impact, with 16% saying they or one of their colleagues has had to take sick leave as a direct result of the anguish of a break up, while 15% of people said separation and divorce has had a negative impact on productivity where they work. Yet despite the effect it has on them or their colleagues, just 10% of people think their employers offer adequate support for people going through a break up, with 34% saying more needs to be done to provide support in the workplace for those undergoing separation or divorce.

And finally, the government has announced a £10 million fund to support women’s refuges in 100 areas across England. The fund was announced on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25th of November) and is one of a number of measures the government is taking as part of this global campaign. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles also wrote to England’s 326 councils to remind them of their legal duty to house women and children who have been forced to flee their homes for fear of violence and abuse.