No-fault divorce, fraudulent non-disclosure and maintenance rulings are among the hot topics discussed by our experts, including Barbara Reeves, Family Partner at Mishcon de Reya
Q: What changes to legislation, or proposed changes, have or will affect how you advise clients?
Reeves: The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 continues to have wide-ranging consequences. In over 40 per cent of cases in the family courts neither party has legal representation, which means that an already massively overburdened Court Service is grinding to a halt. The take-up of ‘compulsory’ mediation, which was introduced to reduce the amount of family litigation, is derisory.
Meanwhile, the MoJ [Ministry of Justice] is finding it harder and harder to recruit judges at all levels. This is leading to a two-tier family justice system: a slow and creaky public one for the less well-off and a privatised and completely confidential one for clients who can afford representation and the additional expense of innovative ADR [alternative dispute resolution] solutions. The advice to clients who fortunate enough to be able to afford it is pretty obvious.
In terms of family law reform that would be welcomed, there are now 3.2 million cohabiting couple families in the UK, an increase of almost 30 per cent in the past decade, accounting for 17 per cent of all family units in the UK. About 40 per cent of these couples still believe in the fallacy of common law marriage.
The failure of successive governments to introduce legislation providing even the most basic economic protection for these families is absolutely disgraceful.
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