This week in family law it’s all about Cafcass statistics, Islamic marriage and more…
The latest figures for public law (including care) applications and private law demand, for December 2019, have been published by Cafcass.
In that month the service received a total of 1,541 new public law applications (involving 2,417 children), 91 applications (6.3 per cent) more than in the same month the previous year. Cafcass received 15,227 new public law cases between April 2019 and January 2020, involving 24,512 children; this represents a decrease of 0.9 per cent (133 public law cases), and a decrease of 3.1 per cent (785 children) on the 15,360 new public law cases received and the 25,297 children involved in those cases between April and January 2019.
As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 4,118 new private law cases (involving 6,064 children) in January 2020, almost 16 per cent (or 560 cases) higher than the same month the previous year. In the ten months since the beginning of April 2019, Cafcass has received 38,513 new private law cases, which is 2,376 cases (6.6 per cent) more than the same period the year before. These cases involved 58,601 children, which is 3,452 (6.3 per cent) more children than April 2018 to January 2019.
Oh dear, the trends for both are upwards again.
Islamic woman not entitled to nullity decree
As explained here in this post by Kaleel Anwar, Senior Solicitor at Stowe Family Law’s Manchester office, the Court of Appeal has held that a woman who went through an Islamic marriage ceremony which did not comply with the requirements of English marriage law was not entitled to a decree of nullity.
This meant that she could not seek a financial/property settlement, as no marriage had ever legally taken place. The woman had petitioned for divorce in November 2016. The Respondent filed an Answer in which he contended that the parties were not legally married. In her Reply, the woman claimed, among other things, a decree of nullity, contending that it was a void marriage because of the failure to comply with procedural requirements.
At first instance, Mr Justice Williams agreed, but the Attorney General appealed, and the Court of Appeal upheld the appeal. The decision has been criticised in some quarters as a blow for Muslim women, who will be left with no rights at the end of what they believe to be their ‘marriage’.
It’s been quite a busy week for family law news, so I will summarise the other stories I want to mention quite briefly.
Crisis, the homelessness charity, has said that it has heard from women victims of domestic abuse who have been left with no option but to return to their abuser or face homelessness because they have nowhere else to go. The charity is calling on the government to ensure that anyone fleeing domestic abuse is guaranteed a safe home in the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill.
As I mentioned here in my post yesterday, amendments have been made to the Family Procedure Rules, which govern the procedure to be followed in family cases. Amongst the amendments is a new requirement to put forward settlement proposals early in financial remedy proceedings. Another new rule requires correspondence between a party and the court in family proceedings to be disclosed to the other party.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which aims to introduce a system of no-fault divorce, may have hit a snag in the House of Lords. Peers are worried that the Bill as drafted would enable the Lord Chancellor to radically alter the reforms without parliamentary scrutiny – so-called ‘Henry VIII powers’. Specifically, they are concerned that the time frame for divorce could be altered. Whether this will seriously hamper the progress of the Bill, we will have to see.
And finally, the Ministry of Justice and HM Courts & Tribunals Service have rolled out an online digital process for anyone wishing to apply for a child arrangements order. We are told that the system will provide a
“Quicker, less stressful process for parents trying to see children”.
Have a good weekend.
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