By the time that you read this blog it is likely that you already have cast your vote but I wanted to consider the promises and policies of the main parties from a family law perspective.
A summary of the policies of the Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Green, Respect Party, DUP, SNP, Sinn Fein, Plaid Cymru, SDLP and Alliance can be found here.
Clearly their policies in relation to issues such as taxation are relevant to everybody and will have an impact from a family law perspective in terms of establishing what the income of separating parties moving forward might be, what other provision may need to be made for tax and therefore how any financial settlement should look.
The different parties’ positions in terms of investment into public services such as the NHS may also be relevant for a separating couple if one or both of them works within the public sector.
One other important issue which appears in the key priorities section of the BBC’s manifesto guide (link above) for both Conservative and Labour is the issue of child care. The Conservative Party are promising 30 hours of free childcare per week for working parents of 3 to 4 year olds. For Labour this is 25 hours and they are also promising access to child care from 8am to 6pm for parents of primary school children. The Liberal Democrats are also looking to extend the free child care on offer to 20 hours.
It is perhaps unsurprising that political parties are looking at this issue when you consider that child care costs have increased 33% since the last election.
More and more the issue child care costs has become important in establishing what the financial settlement should be for parties divorcing or separating with children.
The current system of child maintenance works on a set percentage of the income of the parent who does not have primary care of the child / children and it does not take into account expensive child care costs. More information about child maintenance and how it is calculated can be found here.
What this means is that very often child care costs have to be factored in as part of the wider negotiations and where the parties are married (or have entered into a civil partnership) could be relevant in establishing whether or not spousal maintenance should be paid and at what rate.
Spousal maintenance is not available for unmarried couples (unless they are civil partners) but there is the possibility of applying to the court for provision over and above the standard child maintenance which would be payable under schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989
One of the important factors in spousal maintenance is to establish the receiving parties income needs. Moving forwards those needs may be determined by the outcome of the election and the policies which are being proposed to include the following:
- The Labour Party is promising to freeze energy bills until 2017.
- The Liberal Democrats propose to increase the tax free allowance to £12,500.
- The Conservative Party are promising to legislate to keep people working 30 hours on minimum wage out of tax.
- The Labour Party is promising to freeze rail fares.
- The Conservative Party are promising to keep council tax down and oppose new town hall taxes.
There are many other aspects to each parties’ manifesto that would have a bearing on families both those who are continuing to live together and families where parents or couples are separating. It perhaps goes without saying but it is important for everybody, whether they are separating or not, to consider how they want to use their vote carefully.
Happy polling day everyone!