The Convention on Family Rights
Barry Worrall, for the Cheltenham Group, 21 November 1994
This was written in 1994, soon after the Cheltenham Group was formed, to demonstrate that such a convention could be formulated.
We believe that it shows considerable maturity, compared with policies from other men's and father's rights groups, at the time.
The Convention on Family Rights
Article 1 : Marriage and Divorce
1.1 : The institution of marriage is to be supported by :
- a marriage contract which has been :
- either a) defined by statute at the time of marriage,
- or b) prepared on the parties' own terms;
- clear statutory definition of the intentions of the law, in sufficient detail to prevent judicial misinterpretation, and consistent with a Human Rights Convention;
- public attitudes supported by government fiscal and social policy.
1.2 : No-fault divorce on request of one party alone shall not be permitted; a party who wishes to divorce without due cause will not be entitled to maintenance in any form or to any claim on the estate of the other party upon decease; if a couple both wish to divorce, they should be allowed to do so upon their terms and this should not be a matter for interference by a court; if one party does not wish to be divorced then they should not be so without substantial grounds; if the Petitioner wishes to end the marriage contract without good cause he/she will not be entitled to any benefits that he/she would have received had he/she adhered to the marriage contract other than financial contributions made during the marriage.
1.3 : The right to claim maintenance will only apply to those who have obtained a divorce for good cause without having made a substantial contribution to the causes themselves; maintenance for children shall be shared equally by legal parents, neither party will be required to contribute more than one half of the expenditure, and that expenditure shall be accountable in terms of reasonably expected childcare outgoing costs and no more.
1.4 : The marriage contract, which a couple enter into, on the bases defined in Article 1.1(a) and (b), may be changed only at the instigation of the couple; that is, although family law may change, the laws which pertained at the time of a marriage will define the contract administered at the disolution of that marriage; a couple will be supplied with a copy of the contract at the time of their marriage in order to ensure their familiarity with the terms of the contract, and to enable a party to present the contract in a court; such a contract may specify all issues to be determined if a party wishes to leave the marriage, including the distribution of assets and the welfare of children.
1.5 : A party may present the contract to a court when they consider that the other party has violated the contract, including after a separation; a court may only determine issues as defined by the contract, and in no other way.
Article 2 : Children's Welfare
2.1 : Whether or not the couple entered into a marriage contract, their rights over children shall be equal and respected, based on the children's needs and wishes, as established by objective criteria; the objective criteria are children's unpressured wishes, and whoever may best provide for their physical and educational needs; monies may not be moved by court order from one party to the other for the children's needs; the criteria are not open to change by a judge's discretion; one party's evidence with regard to the objective criteria will not be accepted without corroboration as defined in Article 4.4.
2.2 : Shared residence shall be normal unless objective reasons involving serious danger to the child(ren) exist; the chil(ren) shall not be allowed to be removed from the home vicinity of both parents other than for short periods e.g. holidays.
2.3 : Adversarial court practices in Family Law are to be minimized; the legal system involved in separation/divorce is to be maximum inquisitorial by judge with the parties rather than adversarial by lawyer representatives, although the parties will always have a right to draw a judge's attention to material evidence; statute law will define all issues so far as possible, and so minimise the number of applications to court, and time in court.
2.4 : Any party who creates unnecessary conflict over children is to be appropriately penalised; obstructed contact or parental alienation will normally result in transfer of residence, unless objective reasons exist to indicate otherwise.
2.5 : Monitoring of the effects on families of judicial decisions will take place, at appropriate intervals after a court case, and inferences drawn.
Article 3 : Responsibilities for Family Issues
3.1 : A single Standing Committee of Parliament on Family Issues, (henceforth refered to as the "Committee"), with representatives elected by Parliament, is to have responsibility for all family issues, including family law and the supporting agencies; the Committee will have legal enforcement powers as defined in Article 5.
3.2 : Social issues impacting families are to be investigated by agencies controlled by the Committee, in order to understand causes and effects; majority opinions of married parents are to be recognised rather than those of minority pressure groups.
3.3 : Supporting agencies, such as the Mediation Service, responsible for providing assistance during family crises are to positively support marriage, and minimise the effect of separation/divorce on children and their parents.
Article 4 : Family and Human Rights
4.1 : Family law issues are to be clearly established in statute, and any case law decision which clearly overturns Parliament's intentions will be the subject of proceedings in Parliament as defined in Article 5; a complaining party shall have the right to complain to the Committee on such a case without risk of cost.
4.2 : The laws on family issues, are to be compatible with the Convention on Family Rights.
4.3 : The Convention on Family Rights is to be upheld in UK law, as superior over other family law, but inferior under a Human Rights Convention such as the European Convention on Human Rights, to ensure Human Rights are respected for all parties.
4.4 : Evidence submitted in family law proceedings will require corroboration, and one party's word will not be sufficient, because of the serious effect of the case on the parties' and children's lives; allegations of behaviour, and evidence about the ability of parties with regard to child care, will be accepted only with the same burden of proof required in criminal proceedings; cases of perjury will be prosecuted under criminal law.
Article 5 : Enforcement of Family and Human Rights
5.1 : Wilful misinterpretation of the law by an agent of the law, including solicitor, barrister, welfare officer, or judge, while practicing or engaged in writing or lecturing, is to be a criminal offence, actionable by the party(ies) in a criminal court; the Committee shall be able to require the Lord Chancellor to dismiss a judge under such terms as he/she thinks fit.
5.2 : The judiciary are to be directly accountable to Parliament for interpreting the laws which Parliament has passed in accordance with Parliament's intentions; anyone may petition their Member of Parliament on this issue, and will have a right of audience before the Committee, and to redress over any instance of such judicial corruption.
5.3 : Secret hearings and reports, i.e. UK "in chambers" hearings, in separation/divorce and children's issues cases, are not to be allowed, so that all of society may see that law is interpreted correctly and justice is done; privacy may be protected in law reports by the use of name and place references.
5.4 : Interpretation of the statute law is to be rigorously applied as defined in Article 4.1, but may also be subject to action under a Human Rights Convention by any party against the UK; this will initially be based on the European Convention on Human Rights (all Protocols), including in particular :
- Article 6(1), to provide correct interpretation of the law;
- Article 14, and Article 5 of Protocol 7, to provide equality of rights of parents;
- Article 1 of the (1st) Protocol, to provide natural justice concerning assets of the family.
5.5 : The Committee will have power to instigate prosecutions under criminal proceedings, against any agent within the legal system who does not respect the Convention on Family Rights; this power will also include the reference of cases to the the Lord Chancellor under Article 5.1 for disciplinary proceedings against judges.
5.6 : The Committee will be obliged to refer suspected cases of Human Rights violations to a Human Rights authority, such as the European Commission of Human Rights, Strasbourg; the Human Rights authority must be one which is outside of the control of the UK, and which shall be accountable for their decisions on the basis of the reasons given which shall refer to evidence, law and argument.
5.7 : The Committee will be composed of members who represent a cross section of society; they will be well educated achievers of diverse callings; they will never have been involved in the implementation of any aspect of UK Family Law, either as solicitors, barristers, welfare officers, judges, or members of the Law Commission, or had any other influence, either prior to or during, the introduction of this
A draft of the proposal by The Cheltenham Group
21 November 1994