To celebrate Resolution's 40th Anniversary, the organisation is using Awareness Week (27 November – 1 December) to launch their Vision for Family Justice. These recommendations from family justice professionals set out how the legal system can be improved to fit the needs of modern families. The fifth vision on Resolution's agenda is 'Making Family Law Fit for Purpose'.
Child arrangements on separation and divorce
One recommendation is for there to be a statutory requirement to hear the voice of the child at the first hearing in child arrangement proceedings. It was found in Resolution's polling survey that 71% of people agreed that this recommendation "will help to overcome bias of the main carer". The centrality of the child's voice in proceedings is paramount and building a framework around this should be a key focus for future reform in the family justice system.
From April to June 2023, it was found that on average it took 47 weeks for private law cases to reach a final order (more than double the time taken in 2016). Delay can be damaging for the child and so Resolution has recommended a statutory time limit on child arrangement proceedings. They also advocate for streamlining cases by calling for early proactive management from experienced judges or an early and effective triage hearing.
Financial remedies on divorce
In the case of spousal maintenance, Resolution has recommended that the law, in the normal course of events, should make clear that it will be for a fixed term to avoid parties returning to court. However, this should not be limited in a way which would cause hardship to the financially weaker party.
Cases where assets exceed the parties' needs, and where they were received by way of a gift or inheritance during the marriage, or acquired after the marriage, should be non-matrimonial property. Resolution sets out the instances where such a principle should not apply, for example, where that property is required to meet needs.
Since the UK's departure from the EU, costs, delays and complexity for those divorcing, claiming maintenance and for international child cases have increased. There have been conflicting decisions for international families with connections to the UK and an EU member state, and also gaps left in domestic legislation.
Resolution champions the simplification of the legal framework in private family law cases between England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland and calls for support from the EU to allow UK accession to the Lugano Convention.
Forsters' Family practice supports Resolution's proposal to improve the operation of the family justice system and calls on Parliament to facilitate making family law fit for purpose.
To see Resolution's other recommendations, follow the links to our summary articles:
- Cohabitation reform (find the link to our summary article here).
- Helping families to find solutions (find the link to our summary article here).
- Protecting the Vulnerable (find the link to our summary article here).
- Ensuring the family courts meet the needs of families (find the link to our summary article here).
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