Family law association Resolution has released an official response to the draft Children and Families Bill, which was published by the government earlier this month.
The response highlights various aspects of the bill, expressing concern about some elements and making recommendations regarding others.
Four issues are raised as ‘headline points’. The Association believes that pre-court action ‘Family Mediation and Assessment Meetings’(MIAM)s, are still a cause of confusion and uncertainty and suggests that they should be renamed simply ‘Assessment and Information Meetings’ to reflect the fact that “…the purpose is to provide information on all alternatives to courts, as mediation is not the only way to resolve family disputes.”
The association also expresses reservations about the much-discussed introduction of a legal presumption in favour of shared parenting. It is concerned, it says, about how separating parents will interpret the measure.
It hails the introduction of a 26 week timetable for the resolution of family law cases as ‘in the interests of most children’. However, the time limit should not overshadow a continuing need to focus on the needs of the child, states the response, and the government needs to ensure the legal system has the resources needed to meet the time limit.
In addition, the bill “presents some missed opportunities”, the association claims. Further legislation on the grounds for divorce is needed, say Resolution, or “conflict and distress will continue to be the default position for those going through the divorce process.”
Resolution, formerly known as the Solicitors Family Law Association, represents 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals across England and Wales focused on a non-confrontational approach to family law issues.