Monday, July 13, 2009

Proposed Overhaul of Family Law

Today a major new report "Every Family Matters" was published by the Centre for Social Justice, the think-tank set up by the former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, which has had a major bearing on David Cameron’s social policy-making. The report claims the recommendations are a "far-reaching overhaul of the law [in England & Wales] aimed at putting marriage at the heart of family life." Key points include;

▪ Discussing no-fault divorce is a low priority in contrast to other family law reforms.

▪ Creation of a three month period of reflection and consideration at the outset of the divorce process, which would now be commenced only by a short written notice without any allegations.

▪ Parties should be able to petition jointly under existing law Decree absolute of divorce should be capable of being applied for after four weeks from the decree nisi, instead of the present time periods.


▪ For the different reasons, we do not consider that it is appropriate to make any proposals for cohabitation law reform at this time.

▪ We oppose the present Private Members’ Bill on the basis that it provides very similar rights to marriage.

Information Provision
▪ There should be information provision before the commencement of family law proceedings.

Alternative Dispute Resolution
▪ Binding family law arbitration should be introduced.

▪ There should be mandatory attempts at resolution of children disputes before the issue of proceedings.

Legal Aid
▪ Government should clearly place on record that access to justice, like education, health care and other front-line services, is an essential facet of any civilised society.

▪ The legal aid system must attract and retain specialist practitioners in all areas of family law.

▪ An amendment to the Children Act 1989 to include explicit principles of contact and residence, incorporating equal status of those with parental responsibility and the benefit to the children of both parents having a significant involvement in their lives, with the welfare of the child remaining the paramount consideration.

▪ A change in the law regarding relocation such that an amendment to the Children Act would apply in such cases, to take better account of the changed patterns of parenting, the considerable impact on the child of relocation away from home and other home environment features and wider family members, yet taking account of the increased movement of families.

▪ Grandparents should be placed in a distinctive legal position.

Ancillary Relief
▪ Marital assets are all assets acquired by the parties solely or jointly during the marriage and any pre-marital cohabitation whether through passive growth or active acquisition.

▪ In conducting its fairness exercise on distribution of marital assets and non-marital assets, the court shall follow as binding any marital agreement of the parties.

▪ The marital assets, including illiquid assets, shall be divided equally between the spouses unless there is a good reason not to do so.

▪ The family courts shall have power to make child maintenance orders where both parties are not in receipt of or claiming welfare benefits and the court is making other orders between them concerning income or capital and in any event where are arrears of more than 6 months.

▪ Spousal maintenance shall continue to end automatically on remarriage but should be reduced to a nominal maintenance order after periods of six months’ cohabitation.

Full Report Source Centre for Social Justice 14 July 2009


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