Prenups, IPF, prorogation and online divorce: The last two weeks in family law

A YouGov survey on prenuptial agreements suggests that
members of ‘Generation Z’, i.e. those born from 1996 onwards, are likely to want
to protect their assets before getting married. The survey, of 2,064 people, found
that of the 136 respondents aged between 18 and 24, 42% of women and 36% of men
said they would likely sign a prenuptial agreement. The top priorities differed
slightly between the sexes, with 50% of men thinking the agreement should cover
cars and motorbikes, compared to 43% of women; and 31% of men wanting wine,
whisky and gin collections included, compared to 13% of women. Meanwhile, 42%
of women thought the agreement should cover pets, as against only 35% of men;
75% of women wanted first and second homes to be included, compared with 71% of
men; and 69% of women prioritised savings and investments, compared with 63% of
men.

New research into the killing of women by their intimate, or
former intimate partners, known as ‘Intimate Partner Femicide’, or ‘IPF’, has
found an eight-stage pattern to the killings. The research, carried out by Dr
Jane Monckton Smith, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the Gloucestershire, examined
372 IPF cases documented on the Counting Dead Women website, which lists women
suspected to have been killed by men in the UK since 2012. The eight steps she
discovered in almost all of those cases were: a pre-relationship history of
stalking or abuse by the perpetrator; the romance developing quickly into a
serious relationship; the relationship becoming dominated by coercive control;
a trigger to threaten the perpetrator’s control, for example, the relationship
ending or the perpetrator getting into financial difficulty; escalation, i.e.
an increase in the intensity or frequency of the partner’s control tactics,
such as by stalking or threatening suicide; the perpetrator having a change in
thinking – choosing to move on, either through revenge or by homicide;
planning, for example the perpetrator might buy weapons or seek opportunities
to get the victim alone; and finally the homicide itself, possibly also hurting
others, such as the victim’s children.

Two key pieces of family justice-related legislation could
be lost as a result of the Prime Minister’s plan to prorogue parliament. Prorogation
halts all parliamentary business, with bills that are still going through
parliament likely to fall away, unless they are specifically carried over to
the next session of parliament. The two family justice bills currently going
through parliament are the Domestic Abuse Bill, which will prohibit
cross-examination in person in family proceedings in certain circumstances, and
the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which will introduce a system of
no-fault divorce. It is not yet known if these two bills will be carried over
to the next session.

The Ministry of Justice has supplied information in response
to a Freedom of Information request by The International Family Law Group LLP,
a Covent Garden specialist law firm, comparing online and paper divorces. The
information appears to indicate that online divorces are less likely to result
in a decree of divorce. The firm say that the matter needs much further
investigation, but that the statistics raise concerns that there are more
premature petitions online, that they may be a cry for marital help, and that
they are they lodged after less reflection.

And finally, the Judicial Appointments Commission has announced
the appointment of seven High Court judges, including Frances Judd QC, who will
sit in the Family Division. Judd was called to the Bar in 1984 and specialised
in public and private law children’s cases including complex medical cases,
sexual abuse, international and domestic relocation, adoption and surrogacy.
She was appointed as Queen’s Counsel in 2006, a Recorder in 2002 and a Deputy
High Court Judge in 2011. She was Head of Chambers at Harcourt Chambers between
2009 and 2018, has been Chair of the Family Law Bar Association since 2018.