Same-sex marriage and child protection: The last week in family law

Tim Loughton MP, who opposed the introduction of same-sex marriage, has said it is a “glaring inequality” that straight couples aren’t allowed to enter into civil partnerships. Presenting a ten-minute bill to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples he said: “This bill will correct a glaring but unintended inequality, resulting from the same-sex marriage act, where same-sex couples are still entitled to continue in a civil partnership, to take up a civil partnership or to enjoy the recent extension of marriage. Opposite sex couples have only the option of conventional marriage … That is not fair. It gives rise to inequality in an act to promote equalities.”

A High Court judge has been criticised by the Court of Appeal for maintaining that the decision of the Supreme Court in the Cheshire West case, by which he was bound, was wrong. In KW & Others v Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal over whether a woman was being deprived of her liberty in her own home. Handing down the decision, the Master of the Rolls said that Mr Justice Mostyn had “twice made decisions which have been the subject of an appeal to this court. On both occasions, the parties have agreed that the appeal must be allowed. This has led to considerable unnecessary costs to the public purse and unnecessary use of court time. We regret to say that it is the judge’s tenacious adherence to his jurisprudential analysis leading to his conclusion that Cheshire West was wrongly decided that has been at the root of this … In our view, the judge’s passionate view that the legal analysis of the majority in Cheshire West is wrong is in danger of distorting his approach to these cases.”

Malaysian business tycoon Khoo Kay Peng and his estranged wife Pauline Chai have spent approximately £5 million on their ongoing divorce proceedings, judges have heard. Khoo Kay Peng, 76, who owns 44% of Laura Ashley PLC, and Pauline Chai, 68, who was crowned Miss Malaysia in 1969, were together for more than 40 years and have five children. The pair, who both come from Malaysia, have been embroiled in litigation for more than two years. Khoo lives in Kuala Lumpur and Chai in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. They can’t agree on whether decisions about who should get what in the divorce settlement ought to be made in English or Malaysian courts. Counsel representing Khoo gave the Court of Appeal details of the amounts the couple had spent on lawyers at the start of the latest round of the legal battle. Timothy Scott QC told a hearing in London that Chai had run up bills totalling about £3.5m and Khoo bills totalling about £1.5m.

More than 15,000 same-sex marriages have taken place in England and Wales since it became legal to do so, according to the Office for National Statistics. The figures confirmed that a total of 15,098 same-sex couples had married after the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 came into force on the 29th of March last year. Of those, 7,732 were conversions from civil partnerships. Of the 7,366 same-sex marriages that took place from 29th of March 2014 to 30th of June 2015, 55% (4,059) were between women and 45% (3,307) were between men. Those who chose to convert their civil partnerships into a marriage were roughly evenly split between male and female couples.

And finally, according to figures published by the Department for Education the number of children who were the subject of a child protection plan at 31st of March continues to follow the upward trend of recent years – 49,700 children were the subject of a child protection plan at 31 March 2015, compared with 39,100 six years ago when the children in need census began. The numbers starting and ending a child protection plan in the year both continue to increase.