Trends in families over the past year and the influence on family law

The General Assembly of the United Nations determined in 1993 that 15 May each year should be known as “The International Day of Families”. The UN website notes that “this day provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase the knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families.”

So, what have been the trends in UK families over the last year, and how have these influenced the field of Scots Family Law?

1. Coupling up

The Office of National Statistics reports that the number of families including a couple in a “legally registered partnership” in the UK continues to rise (3.7% in the last decade), although the number of cohabiting couple families increased far more steeply over the same period (by 22.9%). For family lawyers, this has led to a rise in instructions to prepare pre nuptial and pre or post cohabitation agreements. Once viewed as something only for the financial elite, these are now considered to be part of a sensible approach to financial planning – an insurance policy, if you will.

Family lawyers in Scotland are, of course, eagerly awaiting the publication of the SLC report on proposed changes to the law of cohabitation. Check back here for an update in due course.

2. Fewer empty nests

Adult offspring failing (or refusing) to flee the nest? You are not alone. The ONS reports that 24% more people aged 20-34 were living at home with their parents than was the case ten years ago. This is no doubt attributable in part to the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Parents beware: Scots Law provides that children are entitled to be alimented (financially supported) by their parents up to the age of 25, provided that they are “reasonably and appropriately undergoing instruction at an educational establishment, or training for employment or for a trade , profession or vocation.”

3. Jet-setting

As the world slowly re-opens for travel, family lawyers are also seeing an upsurge in cases involving international relocation, child contact issues and marriages abroad. Cross-border issues inevitably add a layer of complexity and it is important to obtain advice at the earliest possible stage if it appears that jurisdictional issues may arise.

4. Different pathways to parenthood

An increase in same sex marriage and same sex cohabiting relationships has led to an increase in same sex couples starting families. This has led to a rise in the need for family law advice in relation to adoption, surrogacy and assisted reproduction. See our guide here in relation to pathways to parenthood.

5. Market volatility

Market volatility arising from world events (the War in Ukraine and the pandemic in particular) can have a significant impact on the valuation of assets, or on parties’ resources. These can feature prominently in financial provision cases and often need to be closely examined with the assistance of external experts. The impact can also be felt in individual’s income streams, which can lead to a need to apply to vary court orders or agreements.

To say it has been a very difficult year (in terms of world events) would be a serious understatement. It will be interesting to see which issues come into focus in 2023.

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