Middle Eastern wealth, court closures and more: a week in family law

family law

Big money cases and statistics dominated the last week’s family law news:

Firstly, Mr Justice Bodey dismissed an application by the mother of a son by a senior member of a Middle Eastern royal family to have the boy’s annual maintenance increased from £200,000 to £800,000. The woman had argued that her son should be able to “replicate” his “super-rich” royal father’s lifestyle by having boxes at Arsenal’s Emirates stadium and Ascot racecourse, together with membership of Wentworth golf club, amongst other luxuries. However, Mr Justice Bodey found that £200,000 a year was enough and therefore the application was dismissed – a decision with which Marilyn Stowe respectfully disagrees.

In another case involving huge Middle Eastern wealth, a Saudi billionaire has failed in his attempt to avoid a maintenance claim by his ex-wife, by claiming diplomatic immunity. Christina Estrada is seeking a share of Sheikh Walid Juffali’s estimated £4 billion fortune, after 13 years of marriage and the birth of a daughter. Juffali said that he had already provided them with a generous settlement, and that his diplomatic status as St Lucia’s representative on the International Maritime Organisation meant that he had “general immunity” from being sued in the British courts. However, Mr Justice Hayden described the diplomatic immunity defence as “spurious” and refused to dismiss Estrada’s claim, a decision that has been welcomed by family lawyers.

Moving on, the association of family lawyers Resolution has announced the development of a new Family Law Children Arbitration Scheme, which will launch in July this year. The new scheme will offer the opportunity to resolve disputes concerning the exercise of parental responsibility and other private law issues about the welfare of children by arbitration. It will be the first time that arbitration will have been available to resolve disputes over arrangements for children, although it has been available to deal with financial family law issues since 2012.

In a demonstration of profundity the Marriage Foundation has published research which indicates that once couples have survived their first ten years of marriage, the risk of divorce diminishes with every year, until more or less vanishing altogether among couples married for fifty years. Couples celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary face a one in 25 risk of divorce. The risk drops to just one in 150 couples among couples celebrating 40 years of marriage, and for those married 50 years, the risk of divorce virtually disappears to one in 1500 couples. The Foundation claims that this finding “demolishes the argument that the growing prevalence of divorce among older couples has anything to do with higher divorce rates or living longer.” Well, you can reach any conclusion you want with statistics…

The latest figures from Cafcass for care applications and private law demand, for January 2016, have been published. In that month Cafcass received a total of 1,040 care applications, a 16 per cent increase compared to those received in January 2015. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 2,953 new private law cases, which is a seven per cent increase on January 2015 levels. As I seem to repeat every month, the figures keep going up.

The most depressing statistic, though, of the week came from the Ministry of Justice, which confirmed yesterday that 86 courts across England and Wales are to close. As I have said here before, this pretty much spells the end of local justice in this country. A sad day indeed.

And finally, to my favourite story of the week. Mobile phones have never been my favourite piece of technology (I actually like to be unobtainable at times, hence I often leave my phone at home), but perhaps they are actually good news for divorce lawyers. According to Irish marriage advice service Accord phone use is more likely to cause trouble in a marriage than infidelity. So, I say: get texting!

Have a good weekend.

Photo by Jon Hathaway via Flickr

John Bolch

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

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