Residential care, adoption and divorce fees: The last week in family law

The Prime Minister and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan have announced a comprehensive review into children’s residential care, “to help put an end to a life of disadvantage for some of the most vulnerable children in care”. The independent review – headed up by Sir Martin Narey, former Head of the Prison and Probation Services in England and Wales and CEO of children’s charity Barnardo’s – will look at which children should be in residential care, how it can be improved and how government can achieve the “very best” for every single child in their care.

David Cameron has also announced measures to increase the number of children adopted, and speed up the process. The reforms aim to break down bureaucratic barriers and challenge councils to double the number of children placed with their new adoptive families at the earliest possible point, halving the time they are waiting in care for the full process to be completed. The government will also toughen up checks to ensure young people are placed with the best person able to care for them – and not unsuitable distant relatives they have never met. David Cameron said: “It is a tragedy that there are still too many children waiting to be placed with a loving family – we have made real progress but it remains a problem. As Prime Minister I want to make sure that we do everything we can so children are placed in a loving home as soon as possible, giving them the best chance for a happy and fulfilled life.”

Plans to increase court fees for divorce could leave couples stuck in loveless relationships, senior judges have warned. The government plans to increase the fees from the current figure of £410 to £550. The Judicial Executive Board says that an increase in fees would “diminish significantly” the number of people who can access justice, as many would simply be unable to afford it. The Board is also quoted as saying that there was “something unappetising about the state making a growing profit on a legal necessity and a source of unhappiness for many people”.

The Department for Work and Pensions has published research exploring attitudes and behaviours of self-employed child maintenance paying parents towards the payment of child maintenance. The research explores why some self-employed paying parents don’t pay child maintenance, self-employed paying parent’s views of the Child Maintenance Service (‘CMS’) during the time of the research (November 2013 and February 2014) and the communication and support needs of self-employed paying parents when using the CMS. The research report can be found here.

A well-known professional football player has won an appeal against the amount of child maintenance he had been required to pay. The player is the father of two children aged ten and five, by two different mothers. The court had ordered him to pay £60,000 per annum for the children, about twice what he would have been required to pay under the child support maintenance formula. Allowing the appeal, Mr Justice Mostyn said that, when considering the amount of child maintenance they should award, the courts should use the child support formula as a starting-point, and should only depart from the formula if there were good reasons for doing so.

And finally, Mr Justice Mostyn has also been in the news for describing the conduct of a husband in a financial remedies claim as “truly abysmal”. The husband’s conduct included assaulting the wife’s counsel and the wife in court (after which he fled abroad), bombarding the court with abusive emails, entering into transactions designed to defeat the wife’s claims and failing to disclose assets. Mr Justice Mostyn made an order adopting the wife’s settlement proposals and also ordered the husband to pay the wife’s costs of nearly £150,000.