Ellis Jones Supports Resolution’s Manifesto for Family Law
Family law group Resolution has launched their manifesto, setting out what the government needs to change in the family law justice system in order to improve the lives of families.
Resolution is an organisation representing 6,500 family lawyers, who aims to ensure that divorce and separation is handled with minimum conflict and stress and with minimum impact on any children involved. Sean, Deborah, Katie and Ian are all Resolution members. Resolution has described the current laws around divorce and separation as being “barriers” to achieving constructive outcomes in separation. The current divorce system is focused too heavily on blame and provides little support for vulnerable persons. There is also no protection available for people who are not married, but rather cohabited before separating.
Resolution has put forward the following six key areas where changes are needed to improve the current system:
1. Protection of vulnerable people going through divorce or separation.
This includes removal of the current £20 fee to make an application for child maintenance to the Child Maintenance Service and the introduction of a “family law credit” scheme. The scheme proposes that where a person meets criteria for legal aid for mediation, they are entitled to an initial meeting with a family lawyer to help them gather evidence they need to access legal aid or discuss their options.
2. Introduction of measures to help separating people reach agreements out of Court.
Resolution recommends that the Government increases its commitment to mediation. Currently, before attending mediation persons are required to attend a MIAM appointment (mediation and information assessment). Resolution recommends that this is changed and delivered as an Advice and Information Meeting and that an AIM meeting is made a part of the separation process as a whole, as opposed to just mediation.
It is also recommended that legal aid should be available for all dispute resolution options. Currently, legal aid (for those who are entitled) is only available for mediation dispute resolution.
3. Introduction of a Parenting Charter to help parents understand their responsibilities when they separate.
Resolution believes that this will create a greater shared understanding of rights and responsibilities of both parents, which will then reduce the likelihood of court proceedings.
4. Allow people to divorce without blame.
It is recommended that there be a new divorce process, where one or both partners can give notice that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. After six months, the divorce can then proceed if both parties agree that this is the best way forward.
5. Help people understand how their divorce will affect their future finances.
Resolution calls for clearer guidance for people engaged with the court process, so that they are more aware of the potential outcomes and consequences.
6. Provide at least basic legal rights for couples living together if they separate without being married.
Resolution proposes that cohabitants, who meet certain criteria, have the right to apply for financial orders upon separation. Cohabitants would also have the ability to “opt out” of this right.
This manifesto certainly echoes the views of many family practitioners who feel that the current laws are outdated (there is little protection for cohabitants) and often combative, for example the requirement that one party “blame” the other when divorcing.
Whilst the legislative wheels turn slowly in the area of family law, it is hoped that this is a step in the right direction.