LiPs, pre-nups and statistics: The last week in family law

A Court of Appeal judge has spoken of the ‘infinitely more difficult’ task of dealing with litigants in person in the family court. Giving judgment in a care case relating to four children in Stockport where the mother was unrepresented, Lady Justice Black said the case was ‘illustrative of an increasing problem’ faced by the court. She said more and more litigants are representing themselves, requiring all involved in the process to ‘take on burdens that they would not normally have to bear’. In this case she said that in future it should be standard practice for the local authority involved to supply extra bundles where the litigant in person has failed to.

A High Court judge has ruled that a 13-year-old girl is capable of making her own decision about whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. An NHS Trust had asked Mr Justice Mostyn to decide whether the teenager had the mental capacity to understand the options open to her. After hearing evidence from a psychiatrist who had interviewed her, the judge concluded that she did. He said that it would now be up to her to decide what to do. Her intention at the time of the hearing was to have a termination.

According to The Telegraph, divorce lawyers have reported a surge of interest in pre-nuptial agreements. One law firm reported a 50 per cent rise in inquiries about the agreements, which allow couples to decide in advance how they would divide up their assets if they separated. The rise in interest follows a report from the Law Commission, the Government’s adviser on legal reform, recommending the introduction of a form of marital agreement, as part of a wider overhaul of the divorce system.

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service Cafcass has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for April 2014. In that month Cafcass received a total of 3,267 new private law cases, which is a 24% decrease on April 2013 levels. As to care applications, Cafcass received a total of 797, representing a 13% decrease compared to those received in April 2013. Care applications also decreased by 5% in the period April 2013 to March 2014 compared to the previous year, which was the first fall in the annual rate since the Baby P scandal.

 

Finally, new guidelines are to be introduced for prosecutors handling cases of domestic abuse among the elderly and teenagers. The guidance, which is intended to help prosecutors in England and Wales decide when to bring charges against perpetrators of domestic abuse, is yet to come into force. The Crown Prosecution Service says the intensity of abuse may be greater among pensioners because they may feel less able to escape or to get help as they are dependent on their abuser. Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: “We know from research conducted by others that there is very little evidence that partner violence decreases with age, and it is important we also recognise the factors that may contribute to and impact upon domestic abuse between older people.”