What has changed in family law?

2014 has been an eventful year for Family lawyers. There have been a number of changes in the Courts’ approach to divorce, separation and children issues which have an impact on our work. Our focus on helping clients through these difficult times, however, remains exactly the same as it always has been – we are committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes.

Whist there has been a judicial drive for divorcing couples to attempt mediation prior to issuing a financial application at court, we have seen a number of interesting cases over the course of the last 12 months that illustrate that mediation is not always a feasible approach. To cover just a few:

London has been reconfirmed as “the divorce capital of the world” with an award of £337m to the wife of a London financier.

The courts adding further support to the validity of nuptial agreements.

Not less than three reported cases involving husbands being jailed or receiving suspended sentences for contempt of court in refusing to either provide financial disclosure, meet on-going mortgage payments or to pay a lump sum, and finally, a finding that a wife who had alleged that a donation of £25m to a tiger charity was fabricated was being “blinded by her desire for revenge”.

In 2014 we saw the introduction of the Children and Families Act 2014. This brought in changes to the way that the Courts approach disputes relating to children. Parents used to be able to apply for residence and contact orders, but as of 22 April 2014, these no longer exist. They have been replaced by the Child Arrangements Order, which may specify with whom a child is to live, and/or provide for them to spend time with the other parent. There is now also a presumption that the non-resident parent should have an involvement in the child’s life, although the extent of their involvement will always depend on the individual facts of the case.

There has also been a focus in the press on the way that adoptions are dealt with. Recently the BBC reported that the number of children being placed by the Local Authority for adoption had halved in the last year following the case of Re B-S (Adoption Order) (2013). This new case law has made it more difficult for a Court to authorise adoption. However, there is still great emphasis on children joining a new family legally by way of adoption. Many studies show that children who are adopted into a new family do much better than children who stay in long-term foster care.

In all cases relating to children, the Courts will continue to adopt the approach that the child’s welfare will be of paramount importance.

Our team of experienced family lawyers are able to provide advice and guidance for anyone dealing with any of these issues. If you would like some advice and assistance, please contact us on 01242 246439.

No liability is accepted for the advice given in this article in respect of individual matters. 

Harrison Clark Rickerbys has 400 staff and partners based at offices, who provide a complete spectrum of legal services to both business and private clients, regionally and nationwide. To contact our teams, click on the links below for our:


Andy Caldicott
Partner, Head of Family Law
Direct Dial: +44 (0)1432 349700
Mobile: +44 (0)7774 870 756
Email: acaldicott@hcrlaw.com