Divorce solicitors question Tory divorce proposals

Divorce solicitors are questioning proposals from the Conservative party to make divorce more difficult and pre-nuptial agreements legally binding as part of an effort to kept married couples together.

The plans have been outlined in the Family Law Review published by the Centre for Social Justice, a think-tank set up by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith. The report says: “Policy can and should be focused on stemming the tide of relationship breakdown.” It claims that making prenuptial agreements legally binding would encourage couples to marry while making divorce more difficult would discourage them from separating.

The review also outlines Tory plans to make divorce settlements more “consistent”, to grant parents and absent fathers better access to their children, to support marriage preparation classes and to establish “family relationship centres” to help separating couples.

The publication is also critical of government plans to give cohabiting couples legal rights to a financial settlement upon separation.

The plans relate to Tory concerns over family breakdown that the party links to social issues highlighted in the cases of Baby P and Shannon Matthews.

The Labour party already set out similar proposals on prenuptial agreements a decade ago, divorce solicitor Naim Qureshi of London law firm Child & Child points out. “However, to date this has not found its way to legislation,” he says. “Legislation is required to reflect the current trend in case law which is tending to uphold part or all of a prenuptial agreement.”

Qureshi also questions whether making divorce more difficult could prevent couples in unhappy or violent marriages from separating. “Would it not be better to put in place measures to help support marriage but at the same time allow those marriages which cannot be saved to be dissolved with dignity?

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