How Family Law is Changing in 2015

04 August 2015

In the summer budget delivered last month, George Osborne announced that families with more than two children would no longer receive tax credits or housing benefits for their third or subsequent child.

Estimated to save the Government £1.35bn over 2020-21, it will not affect the 870,000 families with three or more children currently claiming these benefits and child benefit will not be affected. However, families who have a third child after April 2017 could be caught. Higher tax credit and housing benefits payments for the first child will also be axed in 2017, saving a further £675m.

These changes are undoubtedly going to squeeze low-income families even further, and this could cause more relationships to break down. It will also result in more couples qualifying for legal aid support, which will assist vulnerable couples in obtaining the legal advice and support they need during a marital breakdown.

In this article, we will look at some of the trends developing in family law and how these changes are affecting the family demographic in the UK.

The Rise of the Over-60s Divorce

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the number of people over-60’s getting a divorce is rising. In 1991, there were 1.6 divorces per 1,000 married men over 60. However by 2011 the latest year for which figures are available, this had risen to 2.3.

There were 1.2 divorces per 1,000 married women over 60 in 1991, rising to 1.6 in 2011.

There is also a marked difference in how older people manage a divorce. They are more likely to enter into separation agreements in the first instance and wait two years before officially ending the marriage. As there are often large pensions and significant equity and wealth tied up in the marriage funds, it is becoming more common for one party to keep the property. Husbands are more likely to keep the pensions and are often content to move out of the family home and rent as opposed to splitting the equity resulting in each party having to downsize if they wish to remain mortgage free.

Increase in Cohabitation Agreements

Couples living together without being married are the fastest growing family type in the UK. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data suggests the number of people who cohabit has doubled to 2.9 million from 1996 to 2012.

This increase has created more demand for co-habitation agreements at Co-op Legal Services and across England & Wales. These type of living together agreements set out how couples manage and split their day to day finances such as rent and utility bills, as well as what will happen to assets purchased together if the relationship breaks down.

Cohabitation agreements offer protection for couples who live together without getting married.

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