Family Law Update

Following a number of campaigns in respect of the current legislation it appears that there may be some big changes on the horizon for family law.

The Prime Minister has this week announced that heterosexual couples will soon be able to enter into civil partnerships rather than needing to get married in order to formalise their relationship. 

The decision follows a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Steinfeld and Keidan v Secretary of State for International Development that the discrimination between heterosexual couples and same sex couples following the introduction of The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 allowing same sex couples to get married was unlawful.

Whilst the announcement has been hailed as a success and is a welcome development the introduction of civil partnerships for heterosexual couples will do nothing to afford legal protection to couples who live together but do not wish to get married or become civil partners. Pressure continues to mount from campaigners who are trying to raise awareness of the lack of rights for cohabiting couples and to seek changes to current legislation in order to provide greater protection upon separation. It is not known exactly what the government intends to do in relation to introducing more rights for cohabiting couples but for now it remains that there is no such thing as “common law husband and wife”.

Also in recent family law news is the widely publicised case of Owens v Owens in which the decision to hold Mrs Owens to her unhappy marriage was upheld on the basis that she had failed to sufficiently prove the content of her divorce petition. This decision has fuelled the ever growing campaign for a no-fault divorce to be introduced in order to move away from the “blame game” and reduce acrimony at a time when emotions are running high.

For now divorcing couples will continue to be required to make allegations of fault should they wish to divorce immediately, or failing that will be forced to wait until they have been separated for two years. It is however hoped that the far reaching publicity of Owens v Owens will highlight to Parliament the difficulties with our current divorce system and campaigners will continue to push for change.