By: Erin Hollenkamp
The British Center for Social Justice has proposed some major adjustments to Great Britain’s existing family law, including a requirement that couples "reflect" on their marriage and explore the possibility of reconciliation before being cleared to go ahead with a divorce.
The group, headed by Iain Duncan Smith, also proposes additional rights for individuals to retain assets they owned at the start of the marriage should that marriage end in divorce. The report says the latter changes would put an end to what is seen as a significant deterrent to marriage in Great Britain today.
Divorce in England and Wales is currently granted on one of five grounds, each of which signals the irretrievable breakdown of marriage – adultery, unreasonable behavior, desertion, two years’ separation with consent or five years’ separation without consent.
The proposals to alter the law form a major report called "Every Family Matters," which the Center says is intended to support and protect family life with additional legal safeguards.
David Cameron, the leader of the country’s opposition party, is said to strongly value the input of the Center, including a previous report that called for tax breaks for married couples, which became part of the Tory party platform. A recent poll shows that 85% of those surveyed support tax breaks for married couples, while another 57% believe the country’s laws should promote marriage.
The new proposal calls for a major review of family law, which would be conducted by an independent commission as a part of a "concerted effort to stabilize and support relationships within our society."
Also proposed was a system of state-sponsored relationship counseling, based on a similar system currently used in Australia. These would be called "family relationship hubs," according to the proposal, and all couples wishing to divorce would be required to attend.
Regarding marital assets, the proposal suggests a better accounting of "marital sacrifices," which would categorize assets into marital property and separate property. The former would be split equally, and the latter would be retained by the spouse who owned them originally.
Courts would be allowed to alter these principles if there was a "significant injustice," but the changes would greatly reduce the latitude British courts have in dividing assets. Recent divorce settlements in Great Britain have increased criticism of the law, with spouses marrying for a short time, but one party coming away with millions of dollars worth of assets they had no part in accumulating.
Duncan Smith, who heads the Center, says the new measures would "warn people that they can only secure the legal protection of marriage by getting married. The cooling off period and the requirement for estranged couples to receive information about the implications of divorce will help to save some worthwhile marriages."
Source: The Telegraph