The Private Members’ Bills seeking change for families


Private Members’ Bills are Public Bills introduced by MPs and Lords who are not government ministers. A minority of Private Members’ Bills do become law.

Below is a roundup of the latest Bills relevant to family law issues that have been introduced in the current parliamentary session. For more information about these Bills or any others that have been introduced please visit http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17.html

Cohabitation Rights Bill

This substantial Bill, running to 30 sections, was introduced on 13 June by Lord Marks. It seeks to provide certain protections for persons who live together as a couple or have lived together as a couple; and to make provision about the property of deceased persons who are survived by a cohabitant.

Many separating couples are under the false impression that because they have lived together for a number of years they have a “common law marriage”. There is no such concept in law and separating couples to do automatically acquire rights to property or assets on separation. This Bill would aim to give clarity and a framework to assist separating couples.

In the last session it failed due to lack of time and we are yet to see whether it will get a second reading in Parliament.

Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill

This Bill was introduced on 26 May by Baroness Deech. It seeks to amend the law and give spouses more clarity on financial settlements following a divorce. In the last session it failed due to lack of time and we are yet to see whether it will get a second reading in Parliament.

Baroness Deech says that it is urgent for Parliament to revisit the fundamental law governing financial provision after a divorce as the current law is uncertain and the wide exercise of judicial discretion can lead to unpredictability and uncertainty. She is also concerned that with Legal Aid having been removed from this area of the law, many parties of modest means are left unrepresented and have to attempt to litigate on their own in emotional circumstances, with no understandable or settled principles to guide them in dividing assets and income.

Child Contact Centres (Accreditation) Bill

This Bill was introduced on 6 June by Baroness McIntosh. It seeks to make provision for child contact centres to go through an accreditation process and become accredited members of the National Association of Child Contact Centres (“NACCC”). By requiring all child contact centres to become accredited, users of those centres can be assured that the centre is meeting very high standards.

We do not yet know when this bill will get a second reading in Parliament.

Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill

This Bill was introduced on 25 May by Baroness Tonge. It seeks to raise the minimum age of consent to marriage or civil partnership to 18 and to create a new criminal offence of causing a person under the age of 18 to enter into a marriage or civil partnership.

Currently children who are aged 16 or 17 and wish to get married require the written consent of every adult who has parental responsibility for the child.

We do not yet know when this bill will get a second reading in Parliament.

For anyone who is experiencing family breakdown it is important that legal advice is sought at the first available opportunity. Our family team at Barker Gotelee offer free initial consultations to discuss any issues surrounding families and what we can do to help.

Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.

Ipswich Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email bg@barkergotelee.co.u