Legal aid cuts prompt rise in child custody cases

Throughout May a record number of child custody cases were brought before the courts in what may be directly linked to the cuts in legal aid which come into force shortly.

A record number of 9,398 cases were heard in May according to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass). Nine out of ten of these were custody cases, an increase of 27% on the same month in 2012.

Child welfare experts who are trying to champion the use of mediation services, say that these latest reports are worrying. Cafcass Chie Executive Anthony Douglas said;

“All of us in the family justice system are working hard to steer families towards more constructive alternatives to court applications.

“Cafcass will also continue to discuss the reasons behind any changes to application levels with solicitors and other family-justice agencies over the coming months.”

Child Maintenance – How many parents are really paying?

According to the Department for Work and Pensions, 81% of non-resident parents are paying the child maintenance that they should. However a recent charity report states that this figure is in fact much lower.

A campaign group for single parents states that the DWP are grossly overestimating the number of parents who are up to date with their child maintenance payments. Gingerbread claim that thousands of children could be missing what is owed to them by their parent.

DWP official guidelines state  that, a CSA payment is regarded as ‘in-effect’ if any maintenance is paid, regardless of the amount;

“A case is classed as having a positive maintenance outcome if a payment has been received via the collections service in the quarter, or if a maintenance direct arrangement is in place.”

Gingerbread Chief Executive Fiona Weir says:

“The DWP itself predicts that as more families set up direct payments, once the new child maintenance service starts charging to collect, only one in four (28%) of these arrangements will be paid in full and on time. The department cannot therefore claim to believe that all existing direct pay arrangements are compliant, and it seems extraordinary that it would continue to over-claim in this way.”

The DWP have reacted to this statement from gingerbread by stating that the 28% figure from Gingerbread quoted above was “factually incorrect”, stating that the DWP estimate “30 per cent of parents with the care of children will continue to use the Direct Pay service, but there may be issues with the other parent being fully compliant”.


Divorcees need better understanding of Pension Issues

A recent study has found that 19% of women stop paying into pension funds after they divorce and 25% reduce their levels of savings. It also found that only one in six divorced women had rights to a pension through their ex-husband.

Further findings by the Phoenix Group were;

  • 66% of female divorcees over 40 rely on the state pension in retirement;
  • 38% of women have no idea what settlement they received following their divorce;
  • 20% of women have no idea about their pension provision since their divorce.

For advice on your rights on pension settlement in divorce proceedings call our specialist team now on 0845 548 1007.

Changes to Legal Aid

Recent changes to Legal Aid mean that less people will qualify for financial assistance through their divorce. However, this may not be a bad thing. Mediation services are fast becoming a standard when it comes to divorce proceedings, with more and more law firms offering mediation services to their clients.
In fact, only cases dealing with domestic violence or child-protection now go straight to court. Most other cases are passed through mediation services firstly.
This can be a lot quicker and a lot cheaper, with cases lasting on average just 110 days compared to 450 for non-mediated divorces. Ministry of Justice figures also suggest that the average cost of mediation is £535, compared to £7,000 for litigated cases.
Where mediation services can be seen as a scary prospect for many divorcing couples, in realist it is a fairly straightforward process. Initially there is an assessment to identify the key factors, mostly children or finances, then four or five 90 minute sessions spread over a few weeks. A ‘memorandum of understanding’ is then produced which can form the basis of a legal settlement.
To learn more about mediation in divorce please contact us on 0845 548 1007.

The Church of England – Civil Partnerships

The Church of England has given the first signs of a ‘blessing’ towards civil partnerships. Whilst the official stance is still unchanged, priests have been urged to be ‘flexible’ and devise ‘pastoral accommodation’ to gay couples.

A senior bishop said that same sex couples needed to be given recognition and ‘compassionate attention’ from the Church.

Some churches such as Southwark Cathedral and St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, are two churches that have openly shown support for civil partnerships by offering some ‘blessings’.

Churches have been encouraged to look at each case individually.

“In pastoral responses a degree of flexibility may be called for in finding ways to express the Church’s teaching practically,” it said.
“In affirming its belief in marriage as the form the creator has given us for intimate and permanent relationship of a man and a woman, the Church does not treat questions of what is possible in hard circumstances or exceptional conditions as simply closed. They require pastoral wisdom.”

Divorce Capital of the UK

Weston-Super-Mare has gained the accolade as the Divorce Capital of the UK. Although Birmingham topped the polls, the seaside resort saw 2,477 divorce petitions last year, with a population of just 80,000.

Birmingham saw 2,799 divorce petitions in the year up to October 2012, but this is nothing when you compare it to a population of over 1 million people.

One theory for the startling news released by the Ministry of Justice, was the hit that Weston-Super-mare has taken to its tourist industry after the Grand Pier burnt down in 2008. Also factoring is the weather which saw trade fall by 60% for some hotels and restaurants. Perhaps all of this has added to the strain on married couples trying to keep their businesses afloat in such a tough economic climate.

The Ministry of Justice is expected to spend £25m on mediation services this year. Couples seeking a court order for child maintenance, or financial matters are obliged now to attend a mediation session first.

Family Justice Minister, Lord Mcnally said;

“All too often I hear stories of families going through expensive and traumatic court hearings but we know that when working out how to split assets and arrange time with the children, mediation is a far simpler and cheaper approach for everyone and leads to better outcomes.”

To discuss how Lund Bennett can help with mediation please contact us on 0845 548 1007.

Lund Bennett Law new office ‘gathering’

We were delighted to welcome many friends of the firm to our new office party on Friday the 12th April.

Graham Brady MP kindly provided us with his view on business in Altrincham and how much potential there is in the local area for businesses to grow.

We had much to talk about with all our guests and everyone enjoyed the sushi and refreshments. So much so that we talked on well into the early evening!

Thanks to all who came along – it was a great pleasure for us and we look forward to developing long lasting relationships with all our supporters.

Lund Bennett: Divorce Specialists Knutsford
Lund Bennett: Divorce Specialists Wilmslow
Lund Bennett: Divorce Specialists Northwich
Lund Bennett: Divorce Specialists Cheshire
Lund Bennett: Divorce Specialists Knutsford
Lund Bennett: Divorce Specialists Wilmslow
Lund Bennett: Divorce Specialists Northwich
Lund Bennett: Divorce Specialists Cheshire

Resolution Backs Law Commission for Reform on Matrimonial Property Rules

Resolution has backed the Law Commission’s call for a reform of matrimonial property law. This confirms that the current rules are ‘not sustainable’

Resolution has responded to the Law Commission’s consultation in this area. The group talked of a ‘reformed discretionary approach’ to the calculation of the payment of spousal support, stating:

“We are concerned that limits should not cause hardship to wives over 55 years of age who have not worked during the marriage. We also consider that there is merit in reform to prompt the courts to fully and properly consider the exercise of their powers. For example, the experience of some of our members is that the courts simply ignore the question of any increase in earning capacity which it would be reasonable to expect a party to take steps to acquire.”

Resolution’s 6,500 members are family lawyers and other professionals committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes.

Wish List of Young People in Court

The Family Justice System Young People’s Board was set up by Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) in 2006 order to assist in ensuring that the family justice system remains focused on the children that are at the heart of the cases being dealt with by the Court. It is made up of 32 young people and children who have had experience of the family justice system or who are interested in the rights of children and the family courts.

The Board has released a list of its top 5 wishes for 2013:

  1. Cases don’t drag on and are always focused on our needs.
  2. There is more support when we just need to speak to someone.
  3. We find a way for the court to keep us informed about our cases such as when big decisions are going to be made about our lives.
  4. Help is available when things get tough and everyone’s arguments stress us out.
  5. We have a way to tell the people involved in our case about the good and bad bits and know they’d listen.

The Chief Executive of Cafcass, Anthony Douglas, has responded to this list by saying: “I agree with the Board on these big issues and I hope that we are able to address them over the next year. We will continue to work to bring case duration times down”.

Did You Know?

  • The number of divorces in England and Wales in 2011 was 117,558, a decrease of 1.7% since 2010, when there were 119,589 divorces.
  • In 2011, 10.8 people divorced per thousand married people compared with 12.9 in 2001.
  • The number of divorces in 2011 was highest among men and women aged 40 to 44.
  • Hastings is the area with the highest divorce/separation rate in England and Wales – one person in six (16.5%) is divorced or separated.
  • There are now more than four million divorcees and more than a million people who are separated from their spouse.

Sources: Office of National Statistics, 2011 Census England and Wales