A leading family law organisation has called for sweeping changes to the law around divorce and separation with the launch of its new Manifesto for Family Law.
The document, published on 2 March by Resolution, which advocates constructive, non-confrontational approaches to resolving family issues, was issued ahead of the general election on 7 May to urge the next government to:
- protect vulnerable people going through separation
- introduce measures to keep divorce out of court
- introduce a Parenting Charter to help parents understand their responsibilities when they separate
- allow people to divorce without blame
- help people to understand how their divorce will affect their future finances
- provide at least basic legal rights for cohabiting couples if they separate.
Resolution chair Jo Edwards said the laws around divorce were “woefully outdated, inadequate and unfair to many people”, adding: “The way the current law around divorce is set up encourages conflict. We still have this charade of having to assign blame if you want a divorce and haven’t been separated for at least two years – even if both spouses agree their marriage is at an end. This is a huge barrier to amicable dispute resolution.
“It’s not necessarily the fact of divorce itself that affects children, but any conflict that surrounds it. Parents can get caught up in the heat of the moment during divorce and start thinking of their former partner as the enemy, and not as the mother or father of their child.
“People often think about children’s interests in the sense of their material wellbeing – but it’s the emotional impact of seeing their parents in conflict that creates lasting psychological scars for children.”
Ms Edwards added: “In 2007, the Law Commission recommended reforming the laws that apply to cohabitants if they separate. We now have nearly six million unmarried people living together, many of whom are still under the illusion that they have the same rights as married couples if they separate. Whilst families have changed, our laws have not.”
Surjit Verdi, a family law specialist at Palmers, said: “While the general election may only be a few weeks away, any changes a future government decides to make to reform family law will take much longer.
“At Palmers, our family law practitioners are members of Resolution and support our clients in resolving issues around separation, divorce and children in a constructive way that reduces the stress involved at these difficult times and aims to avoid going to court where possible, which also helps to save time and expense. For more information, please contact our Family Law team.”