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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Resolutions for a new year in family law

It’s scary how fast the festive season is over and done with. The build up is like some sort of tinsel-draped, glittery marathon, full of jingling bells and far from silent nights. It was made perhaps a little more so this year thanks to the weather. I did find it quite amusing that the white Christmas we had all been dreaming of for so long turned nightmare for many as it brought disruptions to travel, deliveries and parties. Maybe next year people won’t be carolling so loudly for a white Christmas. Spending Christmas in Canada myselft I knew I was guaranteed a white Christmas and I'm told by those optimists who stayed at home that the snow did give December a little bit more sparkle and, well, specialness, than we normally see in England. Give me snow over miserable greyness any day.

But in the cold grey light of January, all that cheeriness does seem a long way behind us already. So a new year and the inevitable talk of new year resolutions. I haven’t got any resolutions as such – apart from the usual lose a few pounds and get to the gym more – but I have drawn up something of a wish list for 2011. The points, in no particular order, relate to progress I hope we can see during the year. Some of them are more pie in the sky than others, but potentially they could all happen.

More speed – there is no reason why more solicitors cannot help speed up the time it takes them to deal with family law issues by making better use of email and cutting back the number of face-to-face meetings needed.

More attention to mediation – encouraging more people to use mediation when debating the details of a divorce, will help significantly cut the amount of time couples need to spend in court, thus the cost, and creates a more constructive discussion all round.

No blame culture – whilst individuals will always blame each other in a relationship breakdown, there is no reason why the law needs to encourage this. Introducing a “no fault” divorce, where couples are not forced to list reasons why they want to divorce their spouse, would, in some case, help a divorce go more smoothly with less potential for flashpoints.

Legal recognition of prenuptial agreements – a great stride was made in 2010 when the country’s top court upheld the contents of a prenuptial agreement in the Radmacher case, giving a clear signal that this is what should happen in the future. Why not, then, take the next logical step and make them legally-binding?

Tax breaks for married couples – David Cameron was very keen on this before the election but we have not heard much since. Isn’t it time he clarified the position on whether or not couples who do decide to get married gain anything financially from the Government in so doing?

And the final point, and the one least likely to happen: use of the phrase “quickie divorce” in the media should be punishable by a hefty fine. Tarring and feathering of offenders should also be an option.

Happy new year!

Andrew Woolley
Family law solicitor


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