Resolution Lobby Parliament For Family Law Change

Resolution is an organisation of family lawyers and other professionals in England and Wales committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes. Today marks the end of their promoted Good Divorce week and it has certainly been an eventful week for Resolution.

Their main event took place on Wednesday when their members lobbied parliament about their concerns over a number of areas of family law.

Resolution has identified a number of issues and the organisation has been calling for change in legislation in particular in relation to:

  • “No fault” divorce.
  • Access to Justice
  • Rights of cohabitees

The Lobby Day gave Resolution members the opportunity to meet members of parliament and discuss the issues with the aim of bringing about legislative change in the area.

Why “no fault” divorce:

The current system provides for a divorce based on the reason of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This is established based on one of five facts; adultery, unreasonable behaviour, 2 years desertion, 2 years separation with consent, and 5 years separation.

Frequently a party will cite unreasonable behaviour. In even the most harmonious of marriages there are elements of what one party would consider to be unreasonable behaviour on the part of the other party. No one wants to be faced with a list of examples of their unreasonable behaviour in a divorce petition and the natural reaction is to refute such allegations. Parties then  get embroiled in arguing about the reason for the divorce. This can make each party become entrenched in their position, making it much harder to resolve other issues. This can also create an acrimonious atmosphere which will inevitably have a negative impact on any children.

If one party considers a marriage has come to an end it is almost impossible to defend a divorce and the reason for the divorce will only in very exceptional circumstances impact upon the resolution of financial matters. Taking away the hurdle of “fault” based divorce, will mean married couples can bring their marriage to an end in a more dignified way and use their time and financial resources to sort other important issues arising from their separation.

Access to Justice

With cuts to legal aid significantly more people are now acting as litigants in person in family matters. 34% of private law cases between April and June 2016 saw both the applicant and respondent as litigants in person according to Family Court Statistics, this is an increase of 17% since 2013 for the same period. Represented parties have decreased from 50% to 22% since 2011. Without proper representation the legal system can be daunting, confusing and difficult. Legal representation offers assistance and advice from a professional which in family law matters can be invaluable.

Rights for cohabiting couples:

There is no such thing as a common law man or wife.

Recent case law has demonstrated in the words of one judge, how “harsh” the system can be for cohabiting couples upon a break down of a relationship. A couple may move into a property that is registered only in one party’s name. Over the years the other party may contribute generally to the running of the home and bring up children. If the relationship breaks down it will be difficult for the non owning party to assert rights over the property and there is no provision for financial support in the same way as a married couple.

If the non owning party wants to assert a claim over the property they will have to establish firstly, that there was a common intention that they would have a share in the property. Secondly, that they acted upon this intention to their detriment.

Until the law is changed it may be helpful to set out such intentions in writing by signing a Cohabitation Agreement

The family team at Macks supports the work of Resolution and says “these changes are long overdue as the law has simply not kept pace with the changes in society.”

“Some members of the family team at Macks are members of Resolution and we will always try and deal with divorce and other issues arising from a relationship breakdown in a sensitive and constructive way. We would also suggest that legal advice is taken at the beginning of a cohabiting relationship, to see if there any steps that can be taken to reduce the impact, should the relationship come to an end.”

For more information please call Macks Family Law Team 01642 252828

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