Weekly Family Law Update April 8, 2020

Separated families, children disputes and domestic abuse: The last week in family law Separated family population statistics

The Department for Work and Pensions has published the latest release of annual statistics on separated families in Great Britain, for the period April 2014 to March 2018.

Amongst the main stories
were that in 2017/18 there were approximately 2.4 million separated families in
Great Britain including 3.5 million children; 48% of separated families had a
child maintenance arrangement; the resident parents in separated families
received approximately £2 billion in child maintenance payments; and child
maintenance payments reduced the number of children living in low income
households – the greatest impact was on absolute low income after housing
costs, with 120,000 fewer children in low income households based on this
measure as a result of child maintenance payments.

In 2015/16 to 2017/18 approximately
90% of resident parents in separated families were female and approximately 90%
were under 50 years of age.

You can find the statistics

Private Law Working Group Report

The Private Law Working Group, which in 2018 was invited
by the President of the Family Division to review the approach taken to private
disputes between parents with respect to the arrangements for their children’s
future welfare following a separation, has published its second report.

The first report of the Group,
published in July last year, made various recommendations. A consultation on
the recommendations was then launched. The President says that the consultation
exercise was fruitful and provided valuable comment on the direction of travel
and the detail of the Group’s thinking. The purpose of the Second Report is to
draw together the key themes that were highlighted during the consultation, and
to describe how the Group’s thoughts have developed as a result during the past
6 months.

The President states that the
major message of the work of the Group is that the challenge of dealing with
the fallout from many broken parental relationships is one that should be shared
by society in general. While there is always a role for a judge or magistrate
sitting in a court room, he says, the report re-ignites an important
conversation about services for families, and dispute resolution, out of the

He continues: “In reality,
of course, difficulties that cause parents to come to court are not always
essentially legal matters; they are, very often, the consequences of broken or
dysfunctional adult relationships. As this Report advises, public education
about the effects of parental conflict, and the work of professionals other
than lawyers or judges, will be key to supporting families to receive
appropriate assistance and support; while the courts remain important for the
determination of disputes particularly those involving harm to children or
adults, courts should otherwise be seen as the last, rather than the first,
port of call when many disputes arise.”

You can read the report here.

Huge increase in domestic abuse cases during lockdown

And finally, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline
has seen a 25% increase in calls and online requests for help since the Coronavirus
lockdown began, the national domestic abuse charity Refuge has said.

As the UK enters the third
week of lockdown measures, Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge said: “Since
the UK lockdown measures were announced, Refuge has worked round the clock to
ensure its life-saving services remain open and accessible to any woman who
needs them. Prior to the lockdown measures being introduced, the National
Domestic Abuse Helpline run by Refuge, logged on average 270 calls and contacts
per day. During the week commencing 30 March, calls to the National Domestic
Abuse Helpline increased by an average of 25%, while hits to the national
domestic abuse website www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk increased by 150% during
the initial stages of Covid-19 lockdown. Ordinarily, the window for women to
seek help is extremely limited. During periods of isolation with their
perpetrators, this window narrows further. It is critical that women have
alternative, digital ways of accessing help. Refuge wants every woman who needs
support to know where and how to access it. If it is too difficult to make a
call, women can also access support online, filling in a web form, indicating a
safe and secure time to be contacted. Isolation is often used as a tool to
abuse – and while the current lockdown has the potential to exacerbate abuse –
it is not the reason for it.”