A look back on Family Law in 2020

A look back on Family Law in 2020

No-one could have predicted this year and how it has turned out and I am sure I speak for many that it is a year that we would be happy to see the back of. Turn the clock back 12 months, and not many people would have been prepared for the consequences a worldwide pandemic would have on both the UK and the world.

Brexit was seemingly going to be the go-to word of the year for 2020, as the UK began a 12 month transition process. However, a couple of months into the year, the new word on everyone’s lips was coronavirus, or Covid-19.

Thousands of people have sadly lost their lives in the UK. Nationwide and local lockdowns, tiered restrictions and social distancing measures were all introduced to help keep people safe, prevent the spread of the virus and keep the economy ticking along, the family law sector faced difficulties and challenges to carry out their legal obligations while maintaining safe social distances with their clients.

It has been a turbulent year like no other and there have undoubtedly been lows, but as we come to the end of 2020, the legal landscape is looking a lot different than it did 12 months ago – but one thing is for certain the legal industry has jumped big leaps into the 21st century by realising the power of digital technology.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill (‘No-Fault Divorce’)

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill was reintroduced by the Government back in January 2020.

Previously shelved following the proroguing of parliament and consequent general election at the back end of 2019, the first introduction of the Divorce Bill by Lord Keen of Elie on 7th January 2020 was to stop what was been termed the ‘blame game’ which can have ever-lasting irreparable damage to all parties involved.

The Bill was to replace the need to evidence a conduct or separation fact. Instead, couples can provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage which can be made jointly and will not require any further proof or reason.

Family law organisation, Resolution ‘commended’ Government after it reinstated and reintroduced the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill into Parliament in January 2020.
The second reading on the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill took place in the House of Lords on 5th February 2020.

On Thursday 25 June 2020, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill received Royal Assent and became the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020. The new laws mean that divorcing couples no longer have to apportion blame to the other party.

The introduction of the “no-fault” divorce Bill is due in the Autumn of 2021.

The Domestic Abuse Bill – Protecting victims of domestic abuse

The opening of Parliament and the first Queen’s speech of Boris Johnson’s premiership took place on Monday 14th October 2019. The speech committed the reintroduction of the Domestic Abuse Bill, bringing a clear definition that abuse includes economic, coercive and emotional abuse, as well as physical.

However, late last year the Domestic Abuse Bill was put back on the shelf during the prorogued parliament and subsequent election in December 2019.

In February 2020, The Housing Secretary announced the Government will provide 75 projects across England with £16.6million to help survivors of domestic abuse.

The funding was part of a government drive to bolster protection for survivors of domestic abuse, alongside the eagerly awaited reintroduction of the Domestic Abuse Bill.

In early March 2020, the Domestic Abuse Bill received its first reading at the House of Commons. The Government re-introduced a newer enhanced version of the ground-breaking Domestic Abuse Bill to Parliament on 3rd March which had even greater support and protection for victims and increased punishments for offenders.

On 6th July, the Domestic Abuse Bill completed its Report Stage and Third Reading and was voted through by the House of Commons. The Bill will now be debated in the House of Lords, going through the same sequence of readings and stages as in the Commons, before it receives Royal Assent and becomes law.

The Domestic Abuse Bill is expected to be introduced early in 2021, which has even greater support and protection for victims and increased punishments for offenders – and is hoped to introduce a legal obligation to fund refuges. The landmark Bill has the most comprehensive measures to confront head on these terrible crimes which has been very much welcomed by charities, family legal industry and stakeholders across the country.

Bereavement Law

In January 2020, A new bereavement law was introduced, that allow parents who have lost a child the opportunity to grieve, without the worry of work or finances, for two weeks.

Under current UK rules, parents who have lost a child have no automatic right to paid leave. Although many companies will have a bereavement policy, this is often limited to three days.

The new law, dubbed ‘Jack’s Law’, is the result of a campaign by Lucy Herd, whose son Jack drowned at age 23 months in 2010.

New Measures for Children in Care

In order to improve the quality of children’s social care, in February 2020, Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, announces new plan which sees a ban on vulnerable children, under the age of 16, being placed in unregulated accommodation.

As part of the strict new proposals, the Government will also be introducing national standards for unregulated dwellings to ensure quality standards are met and the children are safe and secure.

What do you think 2021 holds for the sector? 

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