Pensions, domestic violence and more: The last week in family law

A widow has succeeded in her High Court battle to stop her late husband’s frozen sperm from being destroyed. In 2005 Beth Warren’s husband had his sperm frozen before he had radiotherapy treatment for cancer. Unfortunately, he died from a brain tumour two years ago and Mrs Warren had been told by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority that the sperm could not be stored beyond April 2015. Mrs Warren said that she was not yet ready to have his child, and may never decide to, so she wanted that time limit to be extended.

The first detailed study into pension sharing on divorce, since its introduction in England and Wales in 2000, has been published. The study’s findings suggest that pension sharing is a positive addition to financial remedies but that it is the prerogative of a relatively privileged minority. Offsetting pension against non-pension assets remains the most common way of approaching pensions on divorce but the economic rationality of the approach and the fairness of the outcomes were unclear.

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme – known as Clare’s Law – has been introduced across England and Wales. The scheme is intended to provide information that could protect someone from being a victim of domestic violence, by allowing the police to disclose information on request about a partner’s previous history of domestic violence or violent acts. It is named after 36-year-old Clare Wood who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2009.

New figures have revealed that nearly half of people going to family courts to resolve matters involving their children are having to represent themselves. The figures, obtained under a Freedom of Information request, suggest a rise in the number of people attending family courts without a lawyer of around 30 per cent, following cuts to legal aid last April. The Ministry of Justice statistics showed that in the six months from April to September last year 21,574 people (45%) went to court over child-related issues without representation by a lawyer. This compared with 33,294 (37%) for the previous 12 months. If this trend continues over the rest of 2013/14, it would mean there had been a 30% rise.

Parliamentary figures have shown that the number of domestic violence cases being referred to prosecutors, and the conviction rate, have dropped despite an increase in reports to the police. Reports of domestic violence to police increased by 11% from 2010/11 to 2012/3, but the percentage of successful prosecutions has dropped by 14% in the same period. The data shows that around 90% of all reports of domestic violence to police forces in England and Wales are taken no further, as in 2009/10 police referred 12.1% of cases to the Crown Prosecution Service and in 2012/13 that figure had dropped to 10.5% The data also exposes significant differences between the performance of the police forces in tackling domestic violence across the country.

And finally, in an article for The Telegraph senior Tory MP Andrew Selous has warned that the rising number of people heading to the divorce courts as they approach retirement age is leading to “escalating” costs for the social care system, as more people live alone. Mr Selous says that GPs should talk to those over the age of 50 about their relationships and direct them to counselling services, and that older couples should be encouraged to take “relationship MOTs” with a counsellor.