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Lies, Damned Lies and Divorce

You may have seen many commentators, the BBC included, reporting this week that divorces were up in 2016 by 5.8% – “the biggest year-on-year rise since 1985”!There is no real news here at all.  Divorces in 2015 were at their lowest since 1971 and were an unexpected 9% drop on 2014 – the 2016 figure was just a reversion to the mean. The reality is that divorce numbers have been dropping pretty steadily from a high of 165,000 in 1993 to 107,000 in 2016.Also, the claim that “the number of divorces last year in England and Wales was the highest since 2009” is simply wrong. The data shows the number of divorces was as follows:2016 – 106,9592015 – 101,0552014 – 111,1692013 – 114.7202012 – 118,1402011 – 117, 5582010 – 119,5892009 – 113,949So 2016 had the highest number of divorces since, er, 2014. Oh.It seems that divorce, as with so many things in life, is plagued not only by lies and damned lies but by statistics too.

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Retiring family judge uses final speech to slam legal aid cuts

Mr Justice Bodey has used his valedictory speech to highlight the extent to which legal aid cuts made in 2013 have impacted many people’s ability to achieve justice for themselves or the children in the family justice system.Since the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 came into effect, legal aid has no longer been available to litigants in matrimonial finance or private children law cases other than in a small number of cases featuring domestic violence.  As a result, many of those most in need of proper support are left to navigate their way through the family justice system without any advice or understanding of what is expected of them.As Bodey J highlights, this has a knock-on effect both on judges and on the chronically underfunded court system, with poorly informed litigants in person clogging up the already rusting wheels of justice.At Collyer Bristow we now circumvent this mess as far as possible by directing our clients into arbitration and private FDRs – essentially BUPA to the court’s NHS.  That’s great for our clients, but it shouldn’t have to be that way, and in some ways it will exacerbate the problem by creating a true two-tier system, with private justice for the well off and a barely functioning system for everyone else.Family lawyers are almost universally rallying around Bodey’s comments. In my view it’s unlikely, however, that the message will get through to those holding the purse strings.

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President Outlines a Digital Future to Young Family Lawyers

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be one of the speakers at the inaugural “YRes” conference for young family lawyers.Focusing on how family legal practice is likely to change over the next ten years, it was also fascinating to see how the push for change comes not just from the young, technologically-proficient youngsters in the room but is being driven by some of the country’s most senior judges, including the Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division.The audience were quick to highlight the potential risks in moving to a digital justice system, including data security and protecting vulnerable adults. The change will take time, and not be without its hurdles. But the good news is that we have many of family law’s brightest young minds on the case.

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