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A change in legislation that came into effect on 1st October has given couples tying the knot greater freedom of choice in the time their ceremony takes place.

People wanting to get married or register a civil partnership will be able to do so any time of the day or night under the Protection of Freedoms Act. Couples were previously restricted to between 8am and 6pm.

Mark Harper, Home Office Minister with responsibility for the General Register Office, said: 'The public requested that we repeal this law and we listened.

'Removing these restrictions will give people greater freedom of choice when planning their big day.'

This change is one of a number of measures being introduced as part of the Protection of Freedoms Act, which received Royal Assent in May this year. It was raised by members of the public through a cross-government survey, ‘Your Freedom’.

People had the chance to suggest ideas on restoring liberties that have been lost, repealing unnecessary laws and stripping away excessive regulation. The Act aims to put traditional British freedoms at the heart of the Whitehall agenda.

The change is permissive in that neither local authorities or religious groups are required to provide services outside the traditional hours.

Recent figures released by the Department of Education have shown that there were 67,050 looked after children at 31st March 2012, an increase of 2% compared to the same point last year, and an increase of 13% compared to 31st March 2008.

Of children looked after at 31st March 2012, 50,260 were cared for in a foster placement. This represents 75% of all children looked after at 31st March 2012. There were 3,450 looked after children adopted during the year, which is the highest figure since 2007 and an increase of 12% from the 2011 figure.

Edward Timpson, Minister for Children and Families, said:

“The rise in the number of adoptions and adoption placement orders is extremely welcome, but it still takes too long for those who want to adopt and foster to be approved. The time it takes for a child in care to be adopted can be a significant period in that child’s life.

“So we are looking at measures to encourage councils to make use of adopters in other parts of the country. We will shorten the approval process and fast track those who are already foster carers.

“Taken together I hope these reforms will, over time, encourage more people to come forward and volunteer to adopt children. I want more young children to have a settled start in life with a loving family.

“That way, they can make a profound and lasting impact on young lives.”

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

A new study from America has found that more and more adults age 50 and over are choosing to live with their significant other instead of marrying them.

The study, by researchers at the National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) at Bowling Green State University, found that cohabitation among adults over age 50 more than doubled from 1.2 million in 2000 to 2.75 million in 2010.

According to Dr. Susan Brown, lead author of the study and co-director of the NCFMR, cohabitation among older adults is important because it plays a unique role in the lives of older Americans. Living together provides many of the benefits of marriage such as partnership, without the potential costs, like the mingling of financial assets. “Older adults desire an intimate partnership, but without the legal constraints marriage entails,” Brown commented.

Demographically, researchers found that women are especially reluctant to marry in later life, citing caregiving strains that marriage may involve as well as perceived loss of freedom. Most older cohabiters are divorced, followed by widowed, and then never married, whereas older widowers were more likely to remarry.

The Family Rights Group has issued a statement in response to the publication of Mr Justice Ryder’s report into the modernisation of Family Justice.

Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive of Family Rights Group said:

"There is the danger that the unintended consequence of the Government’s proposal to limit care cases to six months will be that children are less likely to be placed with their wider family.

"We are therefore pleased that Mr Justice Ryder has identified that local authorities should explore the potential for a child to return home and the feasibility of children living with their wider family prior to the start of care proceedings. We very much welcome his statement that this is “much more likely to occur where family group conferencing or similar early engagement with family have occurred to identify alternative placements for the child." 

“Family group conferences have the advantage of identifying early on all those who may be important in the child’s life, including paternal relatives, and allow contingency planning so that relatives can put themselves forward and be assessed as potential carers should a child not be able to live with their parents. Unfortunately, at the moment only a small minority of families are offered a family group conference prior to proceedings and three in ten local authorities in England and Wales have no family group conference service at all.

"Mr Justice Ryder’s report however, does not address the increase in relatives who, due to the legal aid reforms, will have to represent themselves in court in order to secure a residence or special guardianship order that could provide a child at risk with a safe, permanent home. It is urgent that the courts are geared up to addressing this.

"We are therefore keen to discuss with Mr Justice Ryder how the Family Court Guide that he is developing will best address family and friends care."

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