Family Law Trends - Changes in family structures - Family Law Partners

Family Law Trends – Changes in family structures

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What are the latest stats in family law?

Generally speaking, divorce rates are down. There were 111,169 divorces in 2014, down almost 3% from 2012 figures, although 42% of marriages still end in divorce. Those aged 40 – 44 have the highest divorce rate and the divorce rate of the over 60s has increased by 85% between 1990 and 2012 (ALC for Resolution 0916 all rights reserved, Source: Office for National Statistics).

Part of the reason for the decline in divorce rates could be due to more couples deciding to live together and not get married. Cohabitee and step family formations remain the fastest growing family relationships in the UK. Households where the couple is cohabiting have increased by 30% in the last decade. Cohabitee relationships are reported to break down sooner than marriages, and there are estimated to be twice the number of cohabitee breakdowns as marriage breakdowns. (ALC for Resolution 0916 all rights reserved, Sources: Office for National Statistics, Households and Families 2016, One Plus One, Marriage Research Charity, Institute for Fiscal Studies).

What do these trends mean for family law?

Divorce and separation are issues which directly affect hundreds of thousands of people in England and Wales every year. As the statistics show it is a fact of life nowadays, the law needs to develop and catch up quickly to meet the needs of modern society. The current laws around divorce and separation are often barriers to finding constructive outcomes for the families involved.

With this week’s election taking place, what should the next government be looking to do in order to improve the lives of separating and separated families across England and Wales, for marriages, civil partnerships and unmarried couples?

Resolution, the national body for family lawyers, is calling for changes to the law including:

  1. Allowing couples to divorce without blame: having to divorce on the basis of unreasonable behaviour or adultery often leads to unnecessary conflict, making an amicable separation less likely. It causes stress, increases costs and reduces the chances of reaching agreement on arrangements for children and financial issues.
  2. Giving cohabiting couples some basic legal rights: It is currently possible to live with someone for decades and have children together and then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for a former partner when the relationship breaks down. Many people in cohabiting relationships are completely unaware of how vulnerable they are. It is not being suggested that protection for cohabiting couples should be equal to marriage, but for there to at least be something put in place to provide some help.

These changes to the law would help hundreds of thousands of people who divorce or separate each year to do so with as little conflict as possible, limiting the damage that is currently caused to families who are separating.

To secure change in the law we need MPs to advocate and campaign on these issues in the new Parliament to improve our family justice system.

If the contents of this blog have struck a cord with you then write to your local parliamentary candidates to make sure they know about the Resolution proposals to make a significant difference to the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people that separate each year. You can find details of your local candidates online at:

Hopefully we can build support for modernising family justice during this General Election and into the next Parliament. In the meantime, if you are seeking family law advice it is important to do so from a lawyer that specialises in family law as the area is complex and each family requires bespoke, tailor made advice specific to their circumstances. Choosing a family lawyer that is a member and accredited specialist of Resolution, as well as having expertise in dispute resolution through mediation, collaborative law or arbitration qualification, will help stand you in good stead.

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