The Sensible Party Manifesto 2017
We are a great country. With a great family justice system. But it can be so much better.
Here at the Sensible Party we believe we can make a family justice system fit for the twenty-first century. The policies we set out in this manifesto will do just that. Please spare a few moments of your precious time to read them, then vote for the Sensible Party on 8 June.
Leader, the Sensible Party.
1) A blameless divorce system
We should have a divorce system that encourages the parties to settle their differences amicably and without recourse to contested court proceedings. Our present system does entirely the opposite, by forcing them to blame the other party for the breakdown of their marriage, unless they have been separated for two years, or five years if the other party is not prepared to consent to the divorce.
We are in urgent need of a no-fault system of divorce, doing away with the out-dated concepts of adultery and ‘unreasonable behaviour’. The law doesn’t need to know why a marriage has broken down, only that it has. It should also not force people to remain in marriages that have clearly broken down.
The law should concentrate on resolving issues relating to any children and sorting out finances, rather than the reasons for the marriage breakdown. Doing away with the concept of blame makes it more likely that the parties will be able to resolve these matters by agreement.
2) A fairer system for cohabitants
How can it be fair that a woman who has spent twenty years looking after the home and bringing up the children of the family can be left with nothing when the relationship with her partner breaks down, just because she was not married to him? Of course it can’t be fair. The family justice system should give her some basic property rights.
To be clear, we are not proposing that cohabitants should be given the same rights as married couples. That reform is for a future generation to contemplate. We are just saying that, in cases where it would clearly be unfair for one cohabitant to be left with only what they own, that cohabitant should be left with some recompense for the ‘home-making’ (i.e. non-financial) contribution that they made to the relationship.
3) Access to justice for all
In 2013 the coalition government did away with legal aid for most private law family matters, including in particular disputes relating to arrangements for children and financial remedies on divorce. This has left a huge number of people without access to proper legal advice and representation, forcing them to navigate the strange and difficult waters of the family justice system on their own. This has put them at a huge disadvantage, and in many cases has led to them not being able to obtain justice. We now have a two-tier system: one for the rich, and one for the poor.
We propose that legal aid be reinstated, so that everyone has equal access to justice. We recognise that this will cost money, but the sum involved is a mere drop in the ocean of the government’s finances, and will therefore make no real difference to the economic deficit.
4) Protecting Human Rights
Our final policy is not for change, but for things to remain the same. We say that this country should remain bound by the European Convention on Human Rights. After all, such things as the right to life and prohibition of torture and slavery sound like pretty good ideas to us. And for family lawyers, such things as the right to a fair trial and the right to respect for private and family life seem quite good too.
In fact, it is agreed by all that the rights enshrined in the Convention should be kept, so we can’t see the point in going to the effort and expense of leaving the Convention and then re-enacting the same rights in a British Bill of Rights, or wherever. And letting the European Court of Human Rights have the final say ensures that the British government cannot in the future get away with breaching any of those precious rights.
In this election the country has a choice. Either it can keep an archaic family justice system which encourages spouses to enter the blame game, which leaves former cohabitants in a state of destitution and to which only those with money have proper access, or it can vote for a modern system which provides fair and proper family justice for all.
The Sensible Party. You know it makes sense.
Photo by Pete via Flickr under the Public Domain.