Tackling domestic violence, Cafcass figures and cases: The last week in family law

The government has set aside £80m over the next four years to improve the way local agencies tackle domestic violence, it has been announced. According to Home Secretary Theresa May the money will be used to boost services available to victims, including refuges and rape crisis centres, and also to create a fund designed to encourage new approaches to tackle domestic violence, support victims and prevent perpetrators from reoffending. Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime, Karen Bradley, said: “The government is serious about stopping violence against women and girls and has made it a priority. No one should live in fear of these crimes. That is why we have increased funding to £80 million for the next 4 years. We are determined to stop women and girls from becoming victims in the first place, which means funding services which will provide support and intervene as early as possible to stop the cycle of abuse.”

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (‘Cafcass’) has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for February 2016. In that month the service received a total of 1,225 care applications, which is a 27% increase compared to those received in February 2015, and the highest ever monthly figure recorded by the service. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,327 new private law cases, which is a 10% increase on February 2015 levels.

The High Court has ruled that a transgender sixteen year old can cut off all contact with his adoptive parents. The boy was referred to the Tavistock gender identity clinic with gender dysphoria in 2014 and later changed his name by deed poll. His parents, who adopted him when he was six, struggled to come to terms with the decision and called him by his previous name, to his “very great annoyance and distress”, said Mr Justice Keehan. The boy came to the conclusion that he no longer wished them to be involved in his life. He therefore sought a declaration that his adoptive parents should not receive any information about his day-to-day life, nor about his assessment and possible treatment at the Tavistock Clinic. Mr Justice Keehan held that the boy was entitled to make the decision he had, and that the court must respect the decision. He therefore granted the declaration.

A businesswoman who gave up her career as a recruitment consultant in order to look after the home and the children while her husband continued with his high-flying career has been awarded virtually all of the family assets by a divorce judge. Details of the case emerged as Peter Morris launched a challenge in the Court of Appeal against the financial outcome of the divorce and against a six-week suspended prison sentence which was imposed on him for non-payment of maintenance. The family had enjoyed a high standard of living, but the couple’s “extravagant” spending, both during their marriage and after their “bitterly contested” break-up in 2013, brought them “to the brink of financial disaster”, reducing multi-million-pound family assets to just £560,000. Of that, Jane Morris was awarded half a million pounds as the housing needs of her and the children were given priority, while her husband was left with just £66,000. Mr Morris was also ordered to pay £77,000 for unpaid maintenance and other debts “from his share”, effectively leaving him with nothing from the marriage.

And finally, a court has ordered a council to pay a 10-year-old boy £5,000 in damages after it failed for three years to seek to revoke an order placing him for adoption. The order had been made in February 2011, along with an order authorising the council to withhold contact between the boy and his mother. No appropriate adopters able and willing to care for the boy were found, and in November 2011 the plan for the boy was changed to one of long-term foster care. The court said that at that stage the council should have sought to revoke the placement order. Had this happened, a guardian would have been appointed to protect the boy’s interests, and the mother would have had the opportunity, if she was so minded, to seek contact with him. In the event, the application to revoke the order was not made until February 2015.