Family justice – a vision for the future

Dec 8, 2023

Last week Resolution launched its Vision for Family Justice.

The organisation - a community of more than 6,500 family law professionals - has long worked towards helping families resolve their issues constructively, without the confrontation that causes further harm to people and relationships. Now, in its 40th year, Resolution has set out the things that still need to change to improve the lives of children and families in England and Wales.

There are five broad headings: 

  •       Recognising the changing face of families

There needs to be reform of the law relating to cohabiting partners, who (unlike married couples and civil partners) currently have very little legal protection when they separate. Resolution is calling for a legal framework of rights and responsibilities. There should also be a review of the law relating to the children of unmarried couples, and an improvement in the inheritance and tax position of cohabitees upon a partner’s death.

 Resolution also wants to see all types of family formations being recognised in law, and reform of surrogacy law. 

  •       Helping families find solutions

More public funding should be available for early-stage legal information and advice, which will in some cases avoid the need for the family court’s involvement. Co-parenting programmes should happen earlier and Mediation and Information Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) should be replaced by Advice and Information Meetings (AIMs) delivered by family justice professionals and which would take place earlier in the process. 

  •       Protecting the vulnerable

Victims of domestic abuse need to be better supported and protected in the family court. This includes extending the prohibition on alleged perpetrators of domestic abuse cross-examining victims in court. Resolution wants to see legal aid being made available to all those who would otherwise be denied access to justice, including in alternatives to the court route (collaborative law, for example). Children must also be supported, through a better child maintenance system, improved safeguarding for those taking part in Child Inclusive Mediation, and by enshrining the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law. 

  •       Ensuring the family courts meet the needs of families

Various changes are called for, including: no further court closures; resources to enable a smooth-running, accessible and responsive court service; and the fast-tracking of contested financial remedy cases below a certain value. 

  •       Making family law fit for purpose

There should be a better way of handling child arrangements, including a statutory requirement that the way in which the voice of the child will be heard should be addressed at the first hearing in child arrangement proceedings. Resolution is also calling for more resources to be made available to improve the public children law system. There should be careful consideration around reform of the law relating to financial remedies on divorce and clearer, simpler rules are needed to govern cross-jurisdictional issues. 

Resolution’s work has identified key issues in the family justice system. The combination of an overstretched court system, difficulties in accessing advice and information, and laws that haven’t kept pace with the changing face of families and family life means change is much needed. We hope to see Resolution’s recommendations being implemented in the coming years. 

For advice about separation, divorce, children matters, or any family law issue, contact us on 01264 353411 or email us at family@bsandi.co.uk.


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