30th May 2024

Election 2024: What’s on FLiP’s Wish List?

Election 2024: What’s on FLiP’s wish list?

 

Election time always leaves us hopeful for initiatives that will transform the landscape for modern and separating families. As we rush headlong towards the 2024 General Election, what commitments are family lawyers really hoping to see once the manifestos are published?

High on the FLiP wish list must be:

  1. Increased funding for the overburdened and currently underfunded family court service; continued funding for the Pathfinder and early legal advice pilot projects; and continued funding to encourage the use of family mediation services. It is also surely time that rates for legally aided mediations were addressed as they have remained static since 2004 whilst inflation has doubled costs.
  2. Protection under the law for cohabiting couples – in particular, a system brought within the family courts which is integrated with a child support model that focuses on the child, offering a radically improved judicial model which provides clarity and certainty for the millions of cohabiting couples. Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Attorney General, has set out Labour’s Common Law Marriage Pledge. Will other political parties follow suit?
  3. A coordinated, joined-up approach across Government departments to tackle the financial and human cost of family breakdown, with one lead department and one minister to oversee this large cohort of society. We echo the call of the Family Solutions Group here.
  4. A comprehensive range of reforms to make the law of surrogacy work better for children, surrogates and intended parents including the creation of a new pathway to legal parenthood for surrogacy arrangements which will allow intended parents to be recognised as legal parents from birth.
  5. Reform of the Child Maintenance Service – our child support system wastes its powerful opportunity to signpost families towards child-centric post-separation arrangements and any issues of complexity are effectively kicked into the long-grass with 3 year tribunal delays. All of this needs addressing in an integrated way.

So, in the absence of the manifestos, what are the principles against which we should be grading the commitments which will shortly be filling our airwaves?

At its core, it is simple: we seek reforms that better support modern and separating families:

  • There should be protection for the vulnerable.
  • There should be recognition of, and regulation for, the changing shape of families.
  • There should be support for those who are thrown into turmoil with the loss of an intimate relationship.

By supporting the integrity of the family in all its forms, we create a better base for our next generation – giving them opportunities for growth that are now too often denied by the impoverishment that separation and a lack of recognition can bring.

So how can better support for modern and separating families be achieved? In our view, we must have laws and systems that:

  • Deliver fair outcomes – which will require solutions that are tailored to the particular needs of the particular family rather than a one-size-fits-all measure, unfortunately so much the darling of the policy writer.
  • Are intelligent – that harness the best available information for separating families from legal practitioners, pensions experts and financial planners to guide family members when planning their future.
  • Place children at the centre – and which not only place children as the lens through which options are assessed, but which will give, where appropriate, children a voice in the futures that are being planned.
  • Provide safety, support and stability for the family.
  • Are accessible – which means that they must be affordable; offered within a system that will deliver conclusions within a realistic timeframe; and which are geographically available to those facing these changes.
  • Are co-ordinated – reforms will start to generate cultural change when their aspirations are in alignment.

If these are the mainstays of better support for modern and separating families, then in the coming weeks and as the various commitments are pitched, we will consider how our suggestions for reforms measure up against these principles.