Family law disputes over children jump 32% vs January last year


Press release - February 2010

The number of legal disputes over children has jumped 32% in January 2010 compared to January 2009 as the recession exacerbated tensions between divorced parents, says Caven, the UK’s leading service for recommending local, quality-assured solicitors to consumers.

Caven, part of Thomson Reuters, says that it received 557 enquiries regarding child support and child custody in January 2010 compared to just 423 in January 2009.

Caven says that while typically there is a peak in the number of enquiries in January following the stress of the Christmas season, the number of enquiries this year is even higher due to recessionary pressures. Caven explains that with household incomes under strain, disputes over child maintenance are much more likely to flair up and will be harder to resolve.

Comments Dan Watkins, Director of Caven: “Just as we have seen an increase in divorce proceedings initiated after the Christmas period we are also seeing other family law disputes take a similar seasonal pattern, but this year the spike in the number of disputes is far higher.”

“Most people now associate Christmas with family, fun and free-spending but arranging that kind of Christmas is not easy for many divorced parents. The pressure to deliver that “perfect” Christmas can boil over into legal disputes between divorced couples.”

“Many parents will want to increase their access to their children over Christmas and the New Year and this can crystallise a dispute over access rights especially if one parent tries to monopolise access to the child.”

“At the same time the weak economy has exacerbated the situation by making the funding of child support payments and Christmas related expenditure far more difficult.”

Dan Watkins explains that Christmas holiday is a time of year when spending increases substantially and that some parents may see this as a justification to ask the other parent to increase child maintenance, which could also lead to arguments.

“The logistical challenge created by the large number of family gatherings that can take place over the holiday season can disrupt the arrangements that were previously agreed between parents on who will have the child and when. Quite often arrangements need to be re-negotiated, which inevitably creates more friction.”

Caven says that while the number of family disputes tends to increase in January and February every year this year has seen a much more exaggerated rise.

Comments Dan Watkins: “The recession has impacted on parents’ ability to continue to support their children financially and some may have fallen behind with child support payments, potentially leaving the other parent having to support them single-handedly.”

“More and more people have children with different partners with whom they are no longer in a relationship. This is adding to the complexity of the family structure, making it more difficult to maintain a peaceful relationship between the parents involved.”

Caven says that although family disputes seem to be on the rise again these disputes do not have to end in cripplingly expensive litigation.

According to Dan Watkins there is a trend is for families to increasingly resolve conflicts through mediation and collaborative approaches.

Comments Dan Watkins: “More and more parents are turning to alternative dispute resolution practices to resolve their family issues because it is generally faster to complete, less expensive and less traumatic than a settlement through the courts.”

“Mediation has been increasingly used over the last 10 years. More recently, we have also recorded a sharp rise in the use of collaborative approaches, which have the advantage of making the agreements legally binding and therefore are seen as an effective middle way between mediation and a court case.”

Collaborative approaches are also strongly supported by many family lawyers with organisations such as Resolution, the former Solicitors Family Law Association, making it its primary mission to promote constructive and non-confrontational approaches to family law matters.

Press enquiries:

Tamara Smith
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Jonathan Stevens
Rhizome PR
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