Family Law Changes and Regulation Roundup 2019-2020

Family Law changes and Regulation Roundup 2019-2020

It’s been a turbulent year, notwithstanding the Covid-19 pandemic, as the legal industry has been forced to rapidly adapt in order to maintain business continuity, while also adhering and adjusting to new laws and legislation over the past 12 months.

Prior to Covid-19, the legal landscape was already changing at a rapid pace. With the virus impacting on a global scale, it disrupted every workplace in every sector, causing the legal sector to pause dramatically and many suddenly found themselves in survival mode. This forced firms to reassess their business strategy, while adjusting and settling into a new way of working.

There has been a ‘mixed bag’ of new laws, some of which were prior to the pandemic and some ensued because of the pandemic, while others might have taken a long time to come to fruition or would never have reached Parliament in the first place.

Let’s take a look at the changes in laws and legislation which has been enforced in the last 12 months…..

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.

Meanwhile, In September 2020, due to the escalation of domestic abuse accidents, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown, domestic abuse charity, Hestia, opened an advice line for businesses supporting employees experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse.

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.

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.

Supporting Adopted Children

In October 2019, ahead of National Adoption Week, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced extra funding to support adopted children and their families.

The funding is aimed at helping adopted children overcome past trauma. Building on an investment of £130m that has already benefitted over 40,000 families, the Adoption Support Fund will give access to therapeutic support until 2021.

Support for Care Leavers

In the autumn of 2019, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced A new multi–million pound scheme to improve access to better housing, healthcare and employment opportunities for vulnerable young people leaving care.

The announcement expanded on work already carried out by the Department for Education that attempts to tackle the root cause for children being taken into care. Projects aimed at strengthening families and support for vulnerable children and allow them to remain with their families if it is safe to do so.

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.

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