Election manifestos – The big changes for family law

Election manifestos – The big changes for family law

Proposed changes to courts and justice are scattered across the promises being made by political parties in the run up to the general election.

In this instalment of our manifesto comparison series, Thrings Partner Kate Barber takes a look at some of the pledges being made that could change family law:


  • Expand the Pathfinder Courts pilot in family court proceedings and continue mediation vouchers to help more families resolve private law child arrangements without an acrimonious court battle.
  • Reform the Child Maintenance Service to prevent non-compliance and new laws to help crack down on non-payment.


  • Strengthen the rights and protections available to women in co-habiting couples.

Lib Dem

  • Introduce legal recognition of humanist marriages.
  • Implement the Law Commission’s proposals to reform wedding laws, giving couples more choice over how and where their wedding takes place, while respecting religious beliefs and practices.
  • Extend limited legal rights to cohabiting couples, to give them greater protection in the event of separation or bereavement.
  • Tackle the backlogs in the family courts that leave children and families waiting nearly a year for cases to be resolved, by making the legal aid system simpler, fairer and more generous.


  • Introduce a UK 25% transferable marriage tax allowance as soon as finances allow. This would mean no tax on the first £25,000 of income for either spouse.
  • Launch a special division of the Family Court for maintenance and defaults.
  • Share parental care 50/50 where appropriate and have rights of access for grandparents.

Meanwhile, to ensure a consistent comparison as part of our series, it is important to highlight that the Green Party made no explicit pledges in their manifesto that directly impact family law and courts.

Kate Barber, Partner in the Thrings Family team, said: “Whilst the pledges being made in relation to family law are not great in number, there are some important reforms and reliefs being suggested that couples and families will need to consider, with each of the parties taking slightly differing views on how they can make improvements.

“The promise to empower women in co-habiting couples might be Labour’s only tangible line on the sector in their manifesto, but it could support millions across the country with the Lib Dem’s extending legal rights to cohabiting couples having the potential to do something similar. With limited detail as to what this means in reality, the devil will be in the detail should either win.

“Promises by the Conservatives and Reform, meanwhile, are quite direct in their wording with the intention to reform services, continue mediation vouchers and introduce marriage tax allowances all looking to make quite specific changes. The proposals by Labour to remove the VAT exemption and business rates relief for private schools is also another financial change that families will want to take note of, given the implication to finances if their children attend such institutions.

“It will be interesting once the new government is in place to see how high a priority these pledges are and how quickly any new proposed legislation is taken to Parliament in the months following the election.”

Thrings Family lawyers are experienced in all areas of the law that are close to home. Whether it is marriages and pre-nuptial agreements, or divorces and separations, they will put your best interests first, taking the time to get to know you so that you are supported with sound advice tailored to your needs. To find out more, get in contact.

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