Insights

What the election might mean for family law

23/06/2024

On 22 May the prime minister Rishi Sunak requested permission from the King to dissolve Parliament and called for an election, which will take place on 4 July.  With a general election just over a week away, family law specialist Lucy Hoare considers what could the election result mean for family law?

Upon the release of the parties’ manifestos, Resolution, a community of family justice professionals who work with families and individuals to resolve issues in a constructive way (of which all LMP lawyers are members) welcomed family justice commitments made by all the major parties ahead of the General Election 2024.

The Liberal Democrats and Labour have both pledged to extend legal rights to cohabiting couples.  1 in 5 families in the UK are now said to be cohabiting and they are the fastest growing family type.  There have been widespread calls for change in the law relating to cohabiting partners on separation for many years now as their rights upon relationship breakdown or the death of their partner are far from equal to those of married couples. So this is a change welcomed by many (although no reform is likely to be fast.)

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have pledged to expand the Pathfinder Courts pilot currently taking place in limited family courts across the country.  This pilot is an approach to private law children proceedings which has as its focus the aim of obtaining information as early as possible in the process to enable the court to make informed decisions sooner.

With opinion polls currently predicting a Labour government what else might be set to change?

In the wake of a recession in recent years Labour have spoken of their plans for growth in the economy if they succeed at the election but also plans to stick to tough fiscal rules.  Therefore, if they win the election it remains to be seen if there will be increased public spending on the family court system. At a time when delays within the court system are lengthy and court buildings are in a state of disrepair, additional funding would no doubt be much welcomed.  Increased spending is something the Green party have committed to in their manifesto.

Private schools in England currently benefit from an 80% discount on business rates, and do not have to charge VAT on school fees. One of Labour’s manifesto pledges is to remove those exemptions, Labour say with a view to increasing the number of teachers in state secondary schools.  With financial pressures on families at an all-time high, this could be a further source of further concern for separating parents with children at independent schools.

From the other end of the political spectrum, Reform have pledged reforms to the Child Maintenance Service, including the launch of a special division of the Family Court for maintenance and defaults issues.  They also say they would introduce shared parental care on a 50/50 basis where appropriate and greater rights of access for grandparents.

Family lawyers welcomed the introduction of no-fault divorce in April 2022 but quite what further reform of the family justice system we can expect under the next government awaits the results of the 4 July election and no doubt the dust settling, but we look to the future optimistically for families.

If you have any questions about the implications of the election on your divorce or separation then Lucy or any member of the LMP team shall be pleased to assist.

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