Aspects of family law


Kate Dowdalls KC

Team members

Lorraine Stirling, Project Manager
Laura Beattie, Legal Assistant

A review of aspects of family law is being undertaken by the Commission’s family law team, following the appointment of Kate Dowdalls KC as lead Commissioner in July 2018.

Aspects of family law project

The review of aspects of family law was announced in our Tenth Programme of Law Reform (February 2018), and we envisage that the project will be a medium-term one, expected to take 5 years to complete.

Phase One - Cohabitation

We are approaching our project in phases, the first of which is focussing on a review of the law of financial provision on breakdown of a cohabiting relationship, otherwise than by death of one of the cohabitants (as set out in sections 25 - 28 of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006).

Following informal consultation with stakeholders including legal practitioners, sheriffs, academics, and individuals and organisations outwith the legal profession, we published our Discussion Paper on Cohabitation seeking views on possible reform of the law in this area on 26 February 2020 (see also our summary and news release).

The consultation period closed on 30 June 2020 and the family law team is delighted with the level of response we have received, particularly as the consultation period coincided with a particularly challenging time as we all adjusted to new ways of working, given corona virus and lockdown.  These responses can be accessed here.

We are grateful to all those individuals and organisations who have responded and our team is now analysing the responses with a view to preparing a report with recommendations to the Scottish Ministers for reform of the law in this area.  We established an Advisory Group, which met in May and September 2019 to assist us as we worked on preparing our Discussion Paper and we met the group again virtually in June 2021 to discuss the responses to our Discussion Paper.  We are in the process of finalising the drafting of our report and Bill which would implement our recommendations for reform.  We hope to publish the report toward the end the summer 2022. 

We are also grateful to all of those who took part in online engagement events with us over the few years.  We have enjoyed meeting many lawyers and non-lawyers from all over Scotland, albeit virtually, and hearing their views on possible reform.

Phase Two

On completion of the first phase of the project, we will consider what area of family law will be reviewed during the second phase. The team has in mind a review of civil remedies for domestic abuse, which would consider, among other matters, whether the existing legislative framework is adequate and sufficient to provide victims of domestic abuse and violence with prompt and effective protection. A decision as to the content of the second phase of the project will be taken at a later date.