What are family lawyers concerned about?
16 December 2014 by Ties Bouwmeester
Grant Thornton has just released it’s matrimonial survey for 2014. The survey of 111 family lawyers based on their last years’ work once again identifies the increased number of litigants in person (LIPs) due to the lack of legal aid as the main concern of 23% of the respondents. The second greatest concern for family lawyers was both a lack of legal aid for most family law cases and the courts not being fit for purpose, each cited by 14% of the respondents. London lawyers recorded the courts not being fit for purpose as their main concern.
The combined responses of the lack of legal aid for most family cases, and the increase in LIPs due to the lack of legal aid totals 37%. It is clear that the impact of the legal aid reforms last year remain a major concern for those representing families in the justice system. Andrew Caplen, President of the Law Society, recently said “There can be no access to justice when citizens do not understand their rights, do not understand the legal system, or cannot afford to obtain redress.” This view is echoed by the respondents to this survey.
Some respondents have expressed concern that family law is being ‘dumbed down’ in order to accommodate more LIPs. Some respondents state that they have experienced problems in dealing with LIPs and have seen judges becoming frustrated as a result.
The survey also looks at the possible changes in legislation family lawyers feel are important. The introduction of no fault divorce still ranks highly as does introducing protection for cohabiting couples, with 25% and 24% respectively. However, 59% of lawyers said that cohabitants should not have the same rights as married couples, an interesting statistic given that the Cohabitation Rights Bill has just passed its second reading in the House of Lords. The solicitors family law group, Resolution, have criticised the Cohabitation Rights Bill for being too limited in it’s scope.
The survey also asked questions about the effect of the economic recovery. The majority of family lawyers (68%) expect that with economic recovery there would be an increase in the number of divorces, with financially dependent spouses expecting to receive a better settlement.
40% of respondents said they have seen an increase in the average age of people getting divorced and 70% of the respondents said that, in their experience, the majority of marriages come to an end after 11-20 years.
Read the full report here.