Marriage and divorce: The last two weeks in family law

A two year old boy of black African heritage has been allowed to stay with his white British foster carer under a special guardianship order, rather than live with his paternal great-aunt. The boy’s parents, who had been charged with “causing or allowing” the boy to suffer serious head injuries, wanted him to live with the great-aunt, but Birmingham City Council, which was responsible for the boy, was in favour of him staying with his foster carer. Ms Justice Russell said the boy, who was born in England, should remain with his carer but stay in touch with his great-aunt so that he had “direct access” to his Congolese cultural heritage and black African ethnicity.

In an interview with The Times Baroness Hale, the country’s most senior female judge, has called for the introduction of no-fault divorce. She described the move as a ‘common sense approach’, which could reduce the stress that separating couples currently endure. She also called for couples to be made to sort out arrangements for children and money before obtaining a divorce as part of the overhaul, saying: “We should make it take longer to get a divorce and encourage people to sort out what happens to the home, children, money before, rather than after, they get a divorce.”

The Government has asked the Law Commission to conduct a review of the law governing how and where people can marry in England and Wales. The question underlying the review would be whether the current law provides a fair and coherent legal framework for enabling people to marry, including whether the law allows people to marry in a way which meets their needs and wishes, while recognising the interests of society and the state in protecting the status of marriage. Initial work to identify and provide an analysis of the issues that need to be addressed in order to develop proposals for the reform of marriage law is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.

The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that there will be a phased implementation of operations at Bury St Edmunds divorce centre, which will serve London and the South East. It is believed that petitions will be accepted from specified areas from the 15th of June 2015, and that the centre will be fully up and running by October 2015.

The Labour Party has announced that if they win the general election they would bring forward a review into the controversial Child Maintenance Service. The process was originally scheduled to begin in 2016 but Labour would start the review immediately. The announcement was welcomed by single parent charity Gingerbread, which says it is very concerned that the current closure of existing CSA cases, and charges for parents who need to use its replacement, will mean even fewer families with effective child maintenance arrangements.

And finally, Cafcass has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for March 2015. In that month Cafcass received a total of 1,066 care applications, a 16% increase compared to those received in March 2014 and the highest number of applications received by Cafcass in any individual month. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,249 new private law cases, which is a 10% decrease on March 2014 levels.