A lawyer group has issued a set of strong criticisms of family law and those in government who have repeatedly ignored calls for reform.
Resolution, a family law specialist group consisting of lawyers and professionals in family dispute resolution, have issued a manifesto of problems and proposed changes to whichever government is created after this year’s general election.
The manifesto contained six key points, but the underlying criticism throughout was that the current laws were very out-dated and did not represent the realities of modern family life in Britain. Simply, as Resolution described in a statement: “while families have changed, our laws have not”. The key points were measures to:
• Protect vulnerable people going through divorce.
• Keep divorce out of court in cases where this is possible.
• Create a Parenting Charter that clearly outlined what responsibilities were held by separated parents.
• Introduce blame free divorce proceedings without requiring one partner to cite a reason due to the other’s behaviour.
• Bring more financial clarity to divorce proceedings so both partners have a realistic idea of possible and likely outcomes as soon as possible.
• Provide basic legal rights to cohabiting couples separating in terms similar to a divorce.
The manifesto also argued that current divorce laws were predisposed to encourage dispute and conflict, even in marriages that could have ended amicably. Resolution published a recent survey alongside the manifesto that showed more children and young people leaning towards alcohol and drug use due to the impact of disruptive and distressing divorces.
The overall aim of instituting the suggested measures would be to provide much better support during relationship breakdown, prioritise children affected by separation, provide fair and lasting outcomes to separations and protect those vulnerable or at risk.
Nearly six million people are cohabiting today in the UK. Without marriage, there are no legal protections in place and the relationship can end at any moment without a partner being held to any obligations. Under Resolution’s proposed system, eligibility criteria would identify a couple as committed once they met certain conditions, granting them similar legal protection as a married couple.
Several countries have also already established blame free divorce for many years, including the U.S.A., Australia and Spain. The Family Law Act 1996 actually established blame free divorce in the UK, but it has never been enacted since the act passed.
Another piece of family law legislation, Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, which determines how money is divided between a couple during divorce, has remained unchanged for over forty years.
Further to recent cuts to legal aid, Resolution hopes to provide better justice and support from the legal system for British families experiencing a traumatic period.