The cost of divorce, children’s services and a lost child found: The last week in family law

The hidden cost of divorce and separation continues to spiral with UK couples spending an average of £14,561 on legal and lifestyle costs when they break up, an increase of 17% since 2014, according to a report by insurance company Aviva. The biggest drivers of the increase include legal fees, up by 109% from £1,280 to £2,679; redecorating a previously shared home, up by 73% from £1,370 to £2,369; and additional legal fees as part of a ‘child custody battle’, increasing by 62% from £3,500 to £5,671. Aviva’s findings indicate the majority of couples who divorce or separate have financial issues to resolve, with the process taking on average 14 and a half months, three months longer than in 2014. The report also said that the breakdown of a relationship can also affect where people live afterwards and their ability to get back on the housing ladder after selling a shared property. Nearly half (46%) of home-owning couples sell their property leading to both partners having to find a new home, in addition to those individuals who move out whilst their partner remains in the former joint home. One in six (16%) buy a new home following separation, with an average cost of £144,600 per person, rising from £94,100 in 2014. This is significantly lower than the average UK house price (£226,185), suggesting the likelihood that people are downsizing to a smaller property. More than half (51%) move to the rental market after their divorce or separation, spending an average of £7,519 each year on rent.

A child was referred to local authority children’s services every 49 seconds last year, the Local Government Association (‘LGA’) has revealed. The LGA, which represents 370 councils across England and Wales, said children’s services face a £2 billion funding gap by 2020 and are struggling to cope with rising demand for support. There were 646,120 referrals overall to councils’ children’s services during 2016/17. With 1,770 referrals being made every day, that is the equivalent of one every 49 seconds. More than 500 child protection investigations were also started on average each day in 2016/17, increasing from 200 a decade ago. The LGA said the figures reinforce the urgent need for the Government to use the upcoming final Local Government Finance Settlement to address the £2 billion funding gap that is facing children’s services by the end of the decade. It warns that failure to close this gap will leave many children and families across the country, who desperately rely on these crucial services, at risk.

Leicester City Council has accidentally emailed a spreadsheet containing details of “hundreds, potentially thousands” of vulnerable people, including children, to 27 taxi firms. The Council sent a recall email requesting the original email to be deleted, and has launched an investigation. A spokesperson for the Council said: “Information would normally be shared with taxi companies on a much more limited basis. We take data protection and confidentiality very seriously and took immediate action, contacting all of the firms and asking them to delete the information. We are investigating and will report this incident to the Information Commissioner’s Office.”

A four-year-old British girl who went missing with her mother has been found safe and well in Spain, a High Court judge has said. Elliana Shand, who is the subject of care proceedings, had been missing with her mother, who has mental health problems, since last summer. At a hearing in the High Court in London, Mr Justice Hayden said the girl was found by police in Spain last Thursday. He also indicated that plans were in place to return Elliana to England in the next few days. He had previously made a number of appeals for information on the mother and daughter’s whereabouts, and had taken the unusual step of ruling that details of the case could be made public, and pictures of Elliana and her mother released to the media.

And finally, the latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for December 2017, have been published by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (‘Cafcass’), the organisation that represents children in family court cases. In that month the service received a total of 1,008 care applications. Whilst this figure represents an 8% decrease in comparison with December 2016, it is the third-highest monthly total for December on record. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 2,790 new private law cases. This is a 2% decrease compared with those received in December 2016.