Family lawyers group Resolution today called for sweeping changes to laws on divorce and separation.
The group, which has 6,500 members, outlined six key changes in its Manifesto for Family Law for the next government to make.
Recommendations include allowing people to divorce without blame. At present, in order to divorce, unless couples have been living apart for two years, one of them has to apportion some form of blame (either adultery or unreasonable behaviour).
Resolution chair Jo Edwards said: ‘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.’
The manifesto states divorce without blame will increase the chances of success for non-court dispute resolution processes and reduce the burden on the family court.
A legal framework of rights and responsibilities should also be established for unmarried couples who live together and split up.
Edwards said the laws governing the family justice system were ‘woefully outdated, inadequate and unfair to many people’.
According to the manifesto, publicly funded mediation numbers have dropped 45% over two years.
Resolution proposes a ‘family law credit’, which allows anyone who meets the criteria for legal aid for family mediation to have an initial meeting with a family lawyer to help them gather evidence they need to access legal aid or discuss their options.
The group recommends Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) be renamed Advice and Information Meetings (AIMs) to make clear they are not solely focused on mediation. Legal aid should also be available for all dispute resolution options, which include solicitor negotiation and arbitration, and not just mediation, it says.