A week in family law: a “sacrificed” career, a Domestic Abuse Bill and access to family justice data

Three stories this week: one not as significant as some have indicated, and two that are very significant. 

The wife who “sacrificed” career for marriage awarded compensation 

wife who “sacrificed” her career as a solicitor so that she could look after her children has been awarded £400,000 compensation as part of a financial remedies award.

The wife had met the husband at a law firm where the husband was an associate solicitor and the wife was a trainee solicitor. The wife later became an in-house lawyer at the firm. The couple became engaged and the woman left the firm, devoting her time instead to the family. They had two children and were married for ten years.

Hearing the financial remedies application Mr Justice Moor found that the wife had stood a ‘very good chance’ of becoming a partner at the firm. He, therefore, found sufficient ‘relationship-generated disadvantage’ to justify awarding the wife compensation, in addition to a half share of the couple’s assets of nearly £10 million. I’ve seen it suggested that the ruling could have ‘implications for other divorce cases’. 

However, Mr Justice Moor made clear that the judgment should not open the floodgates for other spouses to make similar claims. He is reported as saying: 

“I have already made the point that, in many of these cases, the assets will be such that any loss is already covered by the applicant’s sharing claim. In other cases, the assets/income will be insufficient to justify such a claim in the first place. It follows that litigants should think long and hard before launching a claim for relationship-generated disadvantage and they should not take this judgment as any sort of ‘green light’ to do so unless the circumstances are truly exceptional.” 

Enhanced Domestic Abuse Bill introduced to Parliament 

Aenhanced’ version of the Domestic Abuse Bill has been introduced to Parliament after the original Bill failed to complete its passage through Parliament before the General Election. The Government says that the Bill “will go even further to support and protect victims and punish perpetrators, and describes it as “the most comprehensive package ever to tackle this horrendous crime”.

The Bill includes new measures, such as requiring local authorities to provide support and ensure safe accommodation for victims and their children, and extending the ban on abusers from cross-examining their victims in the family courts, so that it applies to all family proceedings where there is evidence of domestic abuse. Minister for Safeguarding Victoria Atkins commented: “Too many people have to live in fear of abuse – whether it be physical, emotional or economic – from those who should make them feel safe and loved. 

This Bill will provide support to the victims and survivors of this horrendous crime so that they can go some way to feeling safe again.” Let us hope that it passes this time. 

Access to family justice data 

It has been reported that Cafcass has transferred its file data to the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage Databank, which is based at the University of Swansea. Cafcass said that the move was part of a strategy to exchange knowledge and learning with key partners such as the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, which was set up by the Nuffield Foundation to improve the use of data and research in the family justice system. 

Speaking at the Westminster Legal Policy Forum, former President of the Family Division Sir James Munby described the move as an ‘astonishing breakthrough’ for public family law. 

Cafcass Chief Executive Jacky Tiotto commented:

Making our data fully accessible to UK researchers means we will have more opportunity to heighten our understanding of the needs of families and carers involved in family court proceedings. We hope to improve our understanding about what makes the most positive difference in children’s lives and to build this knowledge into future reform. The more evidence-based expertise we have about children, their families and their pathways through the family justice system, the better we can support them and ensure they receive the help and support they need.” 

Have a good weekend. 

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