According to official statistics, the number of looked after children at the end of March 2015 totalled 69,540. This is an increase of 1% compared to last year and 6% compared to four years ago. The numbers are the highest since 1985, with 61% being looked after because of abuse of neglect.
The statistics also show that the numbers of foster placements for children are continuing to rise, with 75% of the total mentioned above for 2015 being cared for in foster homes. This has been a trend since 2009 where the number began to steadily increase.
The Law Commission has published a scoping paper after requests from the Government to establish whether the current law is adequate in providing a ‘fair and coherent legal framework for enabling people to marry.’
The paper highlights conflicts that often result due the current legislation such as interfaith couples being unable to have one ceremony that caters for both religions. The strict rules governing religious ceremonies mean they must take place within a religious place of worship and civil ceremonies are not able to contain reference to religion. The restriction on where people can get married can also prevent couples from marrying somewhere meaningful and of personal significance to them such as their home or outdoors. The current legislation is described as being outdated and too restrictive therefore, not serving the modern and diverse society that we live in. This is because the current legislation is still aimed at the 19th century religious beliefs and does not take into account the diverse society that we now live in.
Cafcass and DNA legal, the government approved laboratory, are now able to facilitate DNA testing when the court finds there is disputed paternity in private cases. This change is welcomed by legal professionals as it is intended to speed up the court process by having the funds to conduct DNA testing where before, this was not always covered. Some family court judges have commented on the time wasted debating paternity that could have been solved much quicker by a DNA test.
Resolution is a body of legal professionals that campaign for improvements in the justice system to give more support to families and children involved in legal proceedings. The chair of Resolution, Jo Edwards, has given evidence to the House of Commons raising concerns about the divorce court fees proposed increase by one third.
The Government plans to raise the court fees for divorce from £410 to £550, which will be an overall increase of 60% from the £340 two years ago. Jo Edwards told the Justice Committee that due to the legal aid cut, families are struggling with the current divorce fees therefore; any further increase is not fair on those who need access to the family justice system.
In the High Court case of A & B (No 2 -Parental Order)  EWHC 2080, an English couple were seeking a parental order for their twin daughters after a misunderstanding of the law relating to foreign surrogacy.
The couple had paid £16,000 to an agency in India, a sum that the court agreed was reasonable for the expenses of the pregnancy of the surrogate mother. They had ensured their names were on the birth certificates as the mother and father, in addition to signing the consent forms needed under Indian Law. However, the couple was unaware of the English Law governing foreign surrogacy, specifically the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. This legislation requires a parental order in England before a couple can be recognised as the legal mother and father. This should be completed within six months of the birth of the child.
A joint research study by Bristol and Oxford universities has found children in foster care perform better at school than children who are left with their birth families under the supervision of social services. There is a concern that children in care lag behind their classmates however; this study suggests foster placements improve the educational performance of vulnerable children.
To conduct this study, researchers compared the test results of thousands of children at the end of primary school to their GCSE results. Of the 640,000 children examined in 2013, 13,599 were deemed to be ‘in need’ living with their families, while 4,849 were in foster care.
The Supreme Court unanimously allow the appeal In the Matter of J (A Child)  UKSC 70, clarifying for the first time the scope of the jurisdiction set out in article 11 of the 1996 Hague Convention.
Article 7 of the Convention addresses the jurisdiction after wrongful removal or retention, setting out the rights of the state from which the child has been removed and defining what constitutes a wrongful removal or retention. The issues that the Supreme Court was faced with regarded the application of Article 11 which expands the jurisdiction in article 7 to any contracting state that the child is present.