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'Divorce can be one of the most traumatic life events a family can go through, and we all have a responsibility to ensure it’s dealt with in a way that minimises conflict, encourages amicable solutions where possible, and – most importantly – puts the needs of children first.Resolution’s Manifesto makes six key calls for change.
The fact is that, despite the family justice system going through a period of huge transformation in recent years – not least with the devastating cuts to legal aid – the laws governing it are woefully outdated, inadequate and unfair to many people.
With nearly a quarter of a million people getting divorced each year and around 100,000 children seeing their parents divorce, our laws are in desperate need of change.'
'Although it’s a difficult subject to talk about, dealing with families that face separation needs to be just as high a policy priority for the next Government as other family issues such as childcare and parental leave regardless of what happens in May.
That’s why we’re delighted the Minister is joining us to hear first-hand the changes that need to happen to improve the lives of people going through separation, and most importantly, children of separating parents.'
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'In a sense, what we’re calling for is nothing new. Successive governments of different political compositions have failed to address these issues.
Divorce without blame was actually provided for in the 1996 Family Law Act, but was never enacted and actually repealed just last year. We still have this charade of having to assign blame if you want a divorce and haven’t been separated for at least two years – even if both spouses agree their marriage is at an end. This is a huge barrier to amicable dispute resolution and unnecessarily introduces conflict into the process. There have been repeated calls for no-fault divorce from the judiciary and policy makers.
In 2007, the Law Commission recommended reforming the laws that apply to cohabitants if they separate. We now have nearly 6 million unmarried people living together, many of whom are still under the illusion that they have the same rights as married couples if they separate.
I’m sorry to say that, whilst families have changed, our laws have not.'
'It’s not necessarily the fact of divorce itself that affects children, but any conflict that surrounds it. The way the current law around divorce is set up encourages conflict. Essentially people who are divorcing are stuck in a pincer, between emotional hurt and the loss of a relationship on one side, and a legal system that encourages recrimination and blame on the other,' explains Jo Edwards.She continues:
'Parents can get caught up in the heat of the moment during divorce and start thinking of their former partner as the enemy, and not as the mother or father of their child. People often think about children’s interests in the sense of their material wellbeing – but it’s the emotional impact of seeing their parents in conflict that creates lasting psychological scars for children.'
'Our Parenting Charter aims to remind divorcing or separating parents that children are individuals with their own rights to information and a voice during the separation process.An exclusive article by Jo Edwards exploring the Manifesto and Parenting Charter in greater detail will be published in April Family Law.
Resolution recently published the findings of a survey of young people whose parents had separated or divorced. The results show the extent of the impact of divorce conflict on children, with 14% of the young people surveyed saying that they started drinking alcohol, or drinking more alcohol than previously, as a result of their parents’ divorce. Arguably more concerning, 13% admitted to experimenting, or thinking about experimenting, with drugs as a result of their parents’ break-up. There is a duty to ensure that the divorce is handled in a way that helps to mitigate the impact on children.
Ultimately, a high conflict divorce, which is encouraged by the system, often sees children caught up in adult disputes. This can have repercussions for children that will last for life.'