LOOKING back, 2015 has been a full year for key developments in family law.

Domestic violence: In December, the Serious Crime Act 2015 extended the law to criminalise those who control victims via social media or spy on them online. Under the new law, offenders could face up to five years in prison.

In June, the UK saw its first conviction for forced marriage when a Cardiff man was jailed for 16 years. Forced marriage became a criminal offence under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Police Act 2014.

Child protection work: In December, figures were released by the Nuffield Trust/University of Lancaster that showed a surprising increase in cases where the local authority has successfully applied to the courts for removal of newborn babies from their parents. The research showed in 2008, 802 babies were taken into care. In 2013, it was 2,018. Between 2007 and 2014, a total of 13,248 babies were taken into care.

The research highlighted the numbers of mothers who had a repeated number of pregnancies, with all babies being removed. The problem is that these parents need to be shown how to be a good parent, and that needs resources, such as mental health services or children centres – the sorts of services that during 2016 we, in Oxfordshire, are likely to lose.

However, the government is also planning more specialist Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDAC) like the ones that have been successfully piloted in London and other areas. The idea behind the FDAC courts is to focus on stopping substance abuse, and where possible, to keep families together.

Locally in March the Bullfinch Report was published on the horrific abuse of the young victims of child sexual abuse in Oxford. It also identified 373 Oxfordshire children who had been, or were strongly suspected of being, victims of child sexual exploitation over a 15-year period (1999 to 2014), as well as identifying improvements in the system and ways of working with these vulnerable children and young people.

Adoption: In November the Government announced plans to speed up the adoption process, and to streamline adoption services.

Divorce: In October, two women, Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil both successfully argued that their ex-husbands had misled them about how much they were worth. They won their cases at the Supreme Court, and the court reinforced that parties involved in divorce finances cases must provide frank financial disclosures.

In March, the case of Vince & Wyatt hit the headlines. Many people were surprised that after separating in 1984 and divorcing in 1992, Ms Wyatt was able to ask for a financial settlement from Mr Wyatt, who had become a multi-millionaire. The case highlighted the importance of seeking proper legal advice at the time of separating.

What does 2016 have in store...? We might have faced the abolition of the Human Rights Act, but the government for now, at least, has had a rethink on that. Locally, we look like we will have to cope with substantial cuts in children centres and other early intervention services, support services, and further courts closures and so on. Additionally on January 22, Parliament will debate the introduction of no fault based divorce. We are also likely to face further cuts or changes to the availability of legal aid.