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New call for sweeping changes to divorce laws

Current legislation is "outdated, inadequate and unfair," claims Resolution

27 February 2015

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Current legislation is "outdated, inadequate and unfair," claims Resolution

The nation's largest group of family lawyers has called for sweeping changes to the laws surrounding divorce and separation.

Launching its Manifesto for Family Law, Resolution's chair, Jo Edwards, has argued that current laws are in need of substantial change.

"The fact is that, despite the family justice system going through a period of huge transformation in recent years - not least with the devastating cuts to legal aid - the laws governing it are woefully outdated, inadequate and unfair to many people," she said.

"With nearly a quarter of a million people getting divorced each year and around 100,000 children seeing their parents divorce, our laws are in desperate need of change."

Resolution's manifesto asks the next government to:

1. Protect vulnerable people going through separation

2. Introduce measures to keep divorce out of court

3. Introduce a Parenting Charter to help parents understand their responsibilities when they separate

4. Allow people to divorce without blame

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

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


Wake up call

Resolution hope that its manifesto will act as a wake-up call for politicians with Edwards adding: "Although it's a difficult subject to talk about, dealing with families that face separation needs to be just as high a policy priority for the next government as other family issues such as childcare and parental leave regardless of what happens in May."

There have been repeated calls for reform over such issues as assigning blame in divorce and rights for cohabiting couples. However, little has changed to date.

"Successive governments of different political compositions have failed to address these issues," said Edwards. "Divorce without blame was actually provided for in the 1996 Family Law Act, but was never enacted and actually repealed just last year.

"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 and unnecessarily introduces conflict into the process. There have been repeated calls for no-fault divorce from the judiciary and policy makers."

In 2007, the Law Commission recommended reforming the laws that apply to cohabitants if they separate. However, recent statistics show there are nearly 6 million unmarried people living together, often under the illusion they have the same rights as married couples should they choose to separate.

"I'm sorry to say that, whilst families have changed, our laws have not," added Edwards.

Ministerial support

Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes is to speak at launch of Resolution's manifesto. The minister has recently found himself criticised by practitioners for being part of the Lord Chancellor's team that has overseen huge cuts to legal aid.

A recent report by political editor of, Ian Dunt, claims that an assurance to launch a review into children's access to justice following the MoJ cuts were but a hollow promise.

This article first appeated in PCA's sister publication, Solicitors Journal

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