Removing blame from the divorce process will allow separating couples to focus on what really matters, the Law Society of England and Wales said today as it responded to a government consultation on no-fault divorce.
“The current requirement for divorcing couples in England and Wales to allege one of five fault-based facts exacerbates conflict between separating partners”, said Law Society president Christina Blacklaws.
“It makes it much harder for separating parents to focus their minds on the needs of their children when making child arrangements.
“Introducing ‘no fault’ divorce would change the way couples obtain a divorce – for the better.”
Legal problems such as divorce are made all the more traumatic when set against the backdrop of far-reaching cuts in the justice system - introduced in 2013 - which mean problems often escalate when early legal advice isn’t available.
Christina Blacklaws added: “Cuts to legal aid failed to recognise that solicitors providing early advice were a significant source of referrals to mediation – avoiding costly court hearings. We believe that without early advice from a solicitor, many people do not know that the option of mediation exists, or how to access it.
“Reforms to divorce law need to come at the same time as the reintroduction of legal aid for early advice.”
Legal aid cuts have forced more and more people into 'do it yourself' justice, where they find themselves in court dealing with unfamiliar procedures in order to try to sort out the future of their children, family home and finances.
Since the government implemented the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act in 2013 there has been an increase in the number of litigants in person in the court system.
Not only have the changes failed to divert people away from the courts, they have created additional pressure on the courts as they have to deal with higher than expected case volumes, and delays caused by those acting without lawyers being unfamiliar with the processes. This leads to unnecessary costs to the taxpayer*.
Christina Blacklaws added: “At an emotionally traumatic time such as divorce or separation, parents want and need legal support in order to put the best interests of their children first. It is essential that couples are supported throughout the process. Family law is one area where early advice actually saves money. It can help resolve problems sooner and prevent some legal issues from escalating into costly court cases.”
Notes to editors
* A Law Society analysis of the HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) Annual Report and Statement of Accounts 2016-17, reveals that an average day of court time costs £2,692.
Most areas of free or subsidised early legal advice were removed by the government in 2012. As a result, people who can't afford to pay for early legal advice are now left to address their problems alone – meaning that simple problems can get worse and can create other unnecessary costs for the taxpayer.
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