Pensions, Service Centres and a Convention: The last week in family law

Divorced women are missing out on £5 billion in pension payments every year, according to a survey by Scottish Widows. Even though the average retirement fund for a married couple is reportedly as much as £132,000, fewer than one in ten married people surveyed said they would seek a fair share in pensions. Scottish Widows says that almost half of women (48 per cent) have no idea what happens to pensions when a couple gets divorced, which may explain why so few couples consider them as part of a settlement. A fifth (22 per cent) presume each partner keeps their own pension and 15 per cent believe they are split 50-50, no matter what the circumstances. Catherine Stewart, Retirement Expert at Scottish Widows, said: “It is important that everyone – whether single, married or divorced – take steps to understand their finances and prepare for their independent future should a relationship break down. We would urge men and women to better understand the legalities around what happens to pension pots during divorce proceedings, as often they are the second largest, if not the largest asset a couple owns.”

An investigation by a senior social worker from Tower Hamlets Council has dismissed allegations made in the national press concerning a child who, it was alleged, had been fostered with Muslim carers who spoke only Arabic. In a statement the council said that the child was placed in an emergency situation following concerns she was at risk, and this was the urgent placement available. Whilst it was correct that the foster carer’s first language is Arabic, her husband is White British born in the UK, her children’s first language is English and that is the language of the home. The local authority were satisfied that at all times the foster carers provided warm and appropriate care to the child. Further, they had been impressed with the care and commitment shown by the carers to the child.  This, it said, was reflected in the child’s description and reaction to the carers and the maternal grandmother’s positive relationship with them.

The country’s first Courts & Tribunals Service Centres are to be launched, as part of a £1 billion modernisation reform to our courts and justice system. The centres, which will be in Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent, will bring together expertise in managing court and tribunal cases as they transform from traditional paper-based processes to modern digital systems. A press release from the Ministry of Justice and HM Courts & Tribunals Service says that they are trying to make justice simpler and swifter by bringing more services online, and making courts and tribunals easier to access for working people. The service centres will combine and share best practice and knowledge, so it can be easily accessed by people across the country. The two centres will employ more than 300 people each, in roles that range from processing cases, and issuing court orders and hearing notices, to answering telephone and web enquiries.

The Home Office has published a report setting out measures being taken by the Government toward ratifying the Council of Europe convention on combating violence against women and domestic violence (the ‘Istanbul Convention’). The Convention, which was signed by the Government in 2012, consists of 81 articles aimed at tackling violence against women and girls which focus on prevention, protection of victims, prosecution, and integrated policies. The report says that since signing the Convention the Government has strengthened the law, introduced new protective tools, and issued a range of guidance and support for frontline professionals. The UK, it says, complies with the vast majority of the Convention’s articles and in most respects goes further than the Convention’s requirements. In addition, the Government will bring forward a Domestic Abuse Bill, which will protect and support victims and make sure agencies effectively respond to domestic abuse.

And finally, the Department for Education has published statistics for children in need, for the year to 31st March 2017. The statistics show that the number of such children has fallen. As of March 2016 there were 394,400 children in need, but over the course of the year this fell to 389,430 in 2017, a decrease 4,970, or 1.3 per cent. However, the number of children placed on protection plans is continuing to rise. As of 31st March there were 51,080 children on child protection plans, an increase of 770, or 1.5 per cent, on the 50,310 recorded in 2016. The figure is now 30.64 per cent higher than in March 2010 – when it stood at 39,100.