Resolution, the association of family lawyers, has made four proposals for the political parties ahead of the general election, which it claims “will make a huge, positive difference to the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people that separate each year”.
In a letter to each of the major parties, Resolution Chair Nigel Shepherd calls on them to make a commitment in the next Parliament to:
1. Allow couples to divorce without blame.
2. Give cohabiting couples, who make up 10% of the population, some basic legal rights.
3. Ensure there is fair access to the family justice system.
4. Give people more financial clarity on divorce.
Mr Shepherd said: “It’s time to end the blame game. A new Parliament is a perfect opportunity for politicians to finally act on no fault divorce, regardless of the outcome on June 8th. This is why I have written to all major parties calling on them to make a clear commitment to modernise family law on this and other key issues for our members, such as rights for cohabiting couples, fair access to the justice system and financial clarity on divorce.”
The letter sets out Resolution’s proposals in each of the four areas.
As to divorce, it says that the current law “leads to unnecessary conflict, makes an amicable separation less likely, and reduces the chances of reaching agreement on children and financial issues.”
As to cohabitation, it says: “The reform Resolution proposes would not give cohabiting couples equal legal status to married couples. But it would provide a legal safety net for those cohabitants who currently – wrongly – believe they have legal rights.”
As to access to justice the letter says: “It is our belief that funding should be provided for free initial advice for people of limited means, to help them identify their options on separation and divorce, helping them to put the needs of any children first, and ensuring they are better informed at the start of the process. This would mean those who go on to represent themselves are better informed about their legal position from the outset.”
Finally, as to financial clarity on divorce the letter says: “Divorce law relating to finances is complex and difficult to understand. Outcomes can be difficult to predict, even for legal professionals. Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, which determines how money is divided up on divorce, has fundamentally remained unchanged for the last 40 years. The concern is that people separate with little or no understanding of the financial consequences of their break up, making it more difficult for them to reach agreement and placing a greater burden on the court system.”
Family Law Cafe agrees with all of these proposals, and hopes that the parties will take note.