Our ongoing campaign, Changing Family Law for Changing Families,focuses on improving family law to reflect the needs of 21st century families. The campaign calls for no fault divorce, changes to the law to protect cohabiting couples and enforceable pre-nuptial agreements.
No fault divorce
Reducing flashpoints during divorce
Divorce and separation is often a time of conflict and heartache. It puts families under tremendous pressure and there are all sorts of things to sort out - how to manage the finances and how to make sure that the impact on any children is minimised as far as possible.
There are a lot of potential flashpoints for couples even where couples have mutually agreed that their marriage is over. Sadly, present divorce law makes things worse by forcing couples to blame each other unless they can wait two years to get their divorce. Resolution believes that the law urgently needs to change to allow people to break up with dignity without a two year wait.
What is the problem?
At the moment, the only ground for divorce is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This can be proved in a number different ways but it is not possible for a couple to get a divorce without blame unless they have been separated for at least two years. For many, waiting two years to sort out their finances rules out this option. This means that they must record details either of their partner’s adultery or their unreasonable behaviour in order to proceed with the divorce, making an already difficult and distressing process even harder. This seems particularly pointless given that the reasons for divorce make no difference to any financial settlement or children arrangement – they are simply to allow the divorce to proceed to the next stage.
Changing the law for couples who live together
A growing number of people are choosing to live together outside marriage. Since 1996, the number of cohabiting couples in the UK has risen by more than 50 per cent to 2.3 million - one in six of all couples – while marriage rates are continuing to fall. Yet couples living together are often left without any legal protection if their relationship breaks down.
It is clear that the way we live is changing and our laws must change to match.
Looking for information on your rights?
Advicenow’s LivingTogether campaign explains what rights couples living together currently have, and how they can protect themselves.
Enforcable pre-nuptial agreements
When marriages end, a major source of stress for many couples is not knowing at the outset what the financial outcome of their divorce will be. As people now marry later and with many people marrying for a second time, many people enter into marriage with assets they’d like to protect should the relationship fail. One possible solution to this lack of clarity is for couples to sign a pre-nuptial agreement, but at the moment pre-nuptial agreements lack legal recognition and this can add to the uncertainty and stress if a relationship ends and they are contested.
Resolution is calling for a change in the law to enable couples to make enforceable agreements about what will happen if they separate.
What is the problem?
Although sorting the finances ranks along with making arrangements for children as one of the biggest worries facing divorcing couples, the present law doesn’t provide clarity and certainty of outcome for couples before, during or after marriage. A growing number of couples are signing pre-nuptial agreements as a way of minimising this uncertainty.
However, English family law has an unclear and inconsistent approach to pre-nuptial agreements. They are not formally recognised as part of any piece of legislation and instead their status has been determined by the outcomes of a number of landmark court cases. This has meant that their status is a “moveable feast”, whereby the latest case law development determines the legal advice that lawyers can give to their clients when they make an agreement or rely on it at an already difficult time.