News Brief: The vacation is over...

Now that the summer vacation is over, there is finally enough family law news around to do another News Brief. Four stories caught my eye (so far) today:

Solicitors Journal reports that the legal aid bill committee has rejected all the amendments tabled by Labour MPs to the government’s programme of cuts, including one which would have blocked the removal of areas of work such as private law family, medical negligence and welfare benefits from the scope of the legal aid scheme. The feeling of those opposed to the cuts is perhaps summed up by this tweet by Lucy Reed of Pink Tape, in response to my tweeting the story via Family Lore News:


Meanwhile, Cafcass has released its care statistics for August, which show that the numbers of children subject to an application to be taken into care have reached record levels every month in 2011 bar one. August was not the 'one':
"Releasing its care application figures today for August, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), who receives these applications from the courts, has received the highest number of new care applications for this individual month since it began collecting this data in April 2001, with 885 applications. The figures for August were also the second highest ever recorded for a single month in Cafcass’ 10 year history."
The monthly average to date this year is 814 applications, compared to 754 in 2010, 710 in 2009 and just 460 in 2008. No longer practising, I can only imagine the effect of such an increase upon the resources of the family justice system.

The Law Society has today issued a press release plugging the benefits of cohabitation agreements (prepared, of course, by solicitors). It states:
"The Law Society says that despite the Government’s decision to drop plans to give couples that live together similar rights to married couples, unmarried couples can sign a cohabitation agreement which would give them stronger rights should their partner die or should the couple separate.

The Society says that cohabitation agreements which are drafted by a solicitor could potentially put cohabiting couples in a better legal position than their married counterparts should the relationship breakdown."
Law Society President John Wotton, demonstrating that he is not a family lawyer, is quoted as saying:
"Unlike pre-nuptial agreements for married couples, cohabitation agreements are recognised by the courts in England & Wales as being legally binding. It is not yet established that pre-nuptial agreements for married couples are binding in the courts.

"In light of the Government’s decision not to give live-in couples the same rights as married couples, there is perhaps a greater need for cohabiting couples to make these agreements as they do not have the same automatic protections as married couples."
I wasn't aware that the government, or anyone for that matter, was considering giving cohabiting couples the same rights as married couples, but there you go.

Finally, Family Law has just reported that the Ministry of Justice has announced its new online mediation directory, which will go live on 1 October 2011, replacing the National Mediation Helpline, which is due to close on 30 September. It says that: "The new service is a searchable directory of civil and commercial mediation providers and access will be through, with links on the Directgov and Businesslink websites." It will be entirely do-it-yourself, as there will no longer be a central telephone number to call. Family Law make the very good point that such a directory is, of course, of no use to those without access to the internet, a drawback for which it seems the MoJ has not yet come up with an answer...


  1. good job they spent the time on consultation and indeed lots of people invested their energy in responding. it's like a national conversation or somefink.


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