On Monday last week Resolution – First for Family Law – produced their manifesto for family law, which identified six key areas that they said required changes to the Family Justice System. There is a link at the bottom of this article to the key six areas and the comments made by Resolution, but in a nutshell the comments were as follows:-


1          Protect vulnerable people going through separation:


This aspect highlights the difficulties that have arisen since the cuts to Legal Aid in April 2013, and the restriction on people’s ability to resolve their disputes. They point out that publicly funded mediation numbers have dropped 45% over the last two years, and also highlight the difficulties with the Child Maintenance System.


2          Introduce measures to help separating people reach agreement out of Court:


This highlights the fact that the Government has put a lot of emphasis on mediation as an appropriate way of resolving dispute, but to some extent has focused on this as the only alternative to Court, when of course there are other dispute resolution options such as collaborative law; solicitor negotiation or arbitration.


3          Introducing a Parenting Charter to help parents understand their responsibilities when they separate:


Resolution highlight the difficulty that parents often have when their relationships break down, in terms of determining what their responsibilities are in relation to their children. Resolution propose a charter which simplifies and clarifies precisely what the children have a right to, and propose enshrining this in a parenting charter.


4          Allowing people to divorce without blame:


We are all aware that the legislation that deals with divorces is a 1973 piece of legislation and is therefore out of date. Other than relying on separation within divorce, at present one party needs to apportion some form of blame which necessarily creates conflict, which can then inflame negotiations in relation to finances, or in trying to resolve disputes in relation to children.


5          Help people understand how their divorce will affect their future finances:


Again this aspect is linked to the removal of Legal Aid, and Resolution point to the fact that over 50,000 people represented themselves in family disputes in 2013. There is no doubt about it, the divorce law relating to finances is complex and difficult to understand, Resolution propose a solution that would allow pre-nuptial agreements to be permitted, with suitable safeguards and clear guidelines in relation to division of capital resources and pension.


6          Provide at least basic legal rights for couples who live together if they separate:


The problem Resolution highlights is that there are currently nearly six million people who live together without being married or in a civil partnership. They point out that 47% of the public aged 18-34 think cohabiting couples have the same rights as their married counterparts, and as readers of this blog will know, that is simply not true. This is a real problem in that couples can live together and even have children together, but it doesn’t mean that there is necessarily any financial responsibility when the relationship breaks down.


Resolution are proposing a legal framework of rights and responsibilities for unmarried couples, which would clarify the position in the same way as other countries, such as Australia, Canada and Scotland do. The Law Commission have also recommended changes in this area.


It is worth reading through the Resolution Manifesto, and the various pages are linked here.


For further advice on any of these issues, or to discuss a relationship issue generally, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Practice.