Surrogacy surges across England and Wales

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The number of parental orders issued by the family courts has increased by almost 400 per cent in a decade, according to a recently published report Parental orders are issued by the family courts in order to transfer the status of parenthood from the surrogate mother of a child to the intended parents or parent. In 2011, 117 such orders were issued in England and Wales – but by last year 2020 that had risen to no less than 413. Under current legislation in England and Wales, a surrogate mother retains the legal status of parent after birth, even if…

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Divorce applications now fully online

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From September 2021, all applications for divorce must be made online, the government has announced. Previously online filings were an option but not obligatory. The new requirement, first announced in August, applies to marriages but not to the dissolution of civil partnerships. Civil partners will still need to apply on paper to the regional divorce centre at Bury St Edmunds, as will applicants for judicial separation and nullity. Judicial separation is a rarely sought alternative to divorce in which the parties remain legally married but lead separate lives. This can be an appealing option for couples who have a religious…

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Children who see divorced parents arguing ‘more likely to develop anxiety’

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Children of divorced parents who witness arguments are more likely than their peers to suffer from anxiety and other mental health problems, according to new research. Researchers at Arizona State University interviewed 559 children aged 9-18, asking whether they had been involved in conflict between their parents – for example witnessing rows, hearing negative comments made by one parent about the other, or being asked to pass on negative messages. The youngsters were asked to describe how they felt about these experiences. Those children who had seen arguments were more anxious, specifically about the possibility of being abandoned by one…

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Domestic abuse victims who own property now eligible for legal aid

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Following a recent ruling in the High Court, victims of domestic abuse will no longer automatically be denied legal aid if they jointly own property with their alleged abuser. Previously, the Legal Aid Agency classed such people as in possession of capital and therefore not eligible for assistance, even if they were unable to access that capital because it was tied up in the property. But the High Court has now insisted that the Agency does have the authority to award funding in such circumstances. The case was “strategic litigation” to clarity a point of law. It was brought by…

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Former husband fails to win new divorce settlement

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A former husband has failed to in his bid for a new divorce settlement after a downturn in his fortunes. He had been married to his former wife for 22 years when they separated and began divorce proceedings. Their two children were adults by that point. The wife had been a stay-at-home mother during the marriage. In 2010, a ‘consent’ (financial) order was made by the family courts dividing their assets more or less equally. But the sums involved included projected profits from the future sale of two properties the husband was developing. The order stated that wife would receive…

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What are premarital and post-marital agreements?

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As anyone who has ever been through the process will confirm, deciding who will get what is the one of the hardest and most stressful stages of a divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership. Of course, some couples manage to sort it all out amicably but for many, an already emotionally fraught process becomes especially heated when quantified in pounds and pence. The division of assets is the point at which the family courts may be asked to step in to help soon-to-be-former couples resolve their arguments and produce a binding legal agreement, known as a ‘consent order’….

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UK joins in international child support treaty

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The UK has formally joined the Hague Convention on International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance. This international treaty provides a legal mechanism for child support orders made in one country to be recognised and enforced in others, so parents cannot dodge their responsibilities by relocating abroad. The move follows Britain’s departure from the European Union. The UK is currently a participant in the Convention via our membership of the EU but this will cease to be the case on 31 December, at the end of the continuity period following our withdrawal. On 1 January, Britain…

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Surge in calls to male domestic violence charity

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Appeals for help to a charity for male victims of domestic violence jumped by 60 per cent during lockdown, according to new figures. The Respect Men’s Advice Line received 13,812 phone calls and emails between April and July, compared to only 8,648 in the same period last year. Contact via email almost doubled in June alone, from 372 in 2019 to 728 in 2020. Over the quarter, Respect received an average of average of 92 phone calls and 22 emails per day. Ippo Panteloudakis founded the helpline and is now the charity’s Head of Services. He explained that callers: “…were…

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Law Commission considers greater choice in wedding venues

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The Law Commission has launched a consultation on possible reforms to marriage law which would allow couples a greater choice of venues and ceremonies. Announcing the consultation, the Commission explained: “The main law which governs marriage is from 1836 and has failed to keep pace with modern life. How and where marriages can take place is tightly regulated, and differs depending on the type of wedding. At present, couples have to make a choice between a religious or a civil ceremony, with no option for a ceremony reflecting other beliefs. Couples having an Anglican wedding can give notice to the…

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Three year-old can remain in the UK, Court of Appeal rules

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The Court of Appeal has overruled the High Court and set aside an order for the return of a three year-old boy to the Balkan country Bosnia and Herzegovina. In B (A Child), the parents were both Bosnian, although the mother had been resident in England since 1995 after arriving as asylum seeker in 1995 when she was just 14 years of age. She had been fleeing the Bosnian war with her own mother and these early experiences left her with lasting mental health problems, including obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression. B’s father, meanwhile, was a Bosnian citizen who…

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