Solicitors, barristers, judges and students all descended upon the University of Leeds yesterday. The Law Commission’s high-profile consultation on family law reform had come to the city for a special event hosted by Stowe Family Law.
Our distinguished legal guests joined members of our 54-strong for a packed gathering in the university’s School of Law.
Currently the Law Commission, which makes recommendations for change to Parliament, is considering the law relating to needs and non-matrimonial property following divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership. The consultation prompted newspaper headlines after it emerged that in the future, divorce settlements could be worked out using a mathematical formula.
However the Law Commission wanted to obtain feedback from north of England legal professionals and members of the public, before publishing its final recommendations in 2013.
At the event, I introduced Professor Elizabeth Cooke of the Law Commission, who gave a presentation about the extended consultation and its potential implications for divorcing couples up and down the country. A lively question, answer and discussion session was chaired by Professor Chris Barton, the vice president of the Family Mediators Association and an Emeritus Professor of Law at Staffordshire University.
Professor Cooke, who is the Law Commissioner leading the project, said: “When two people bring their marriage or civil partnership to an end it is vital that the law is able to help them resolve their financial arrangements as quickly and fairly as possible. The current law creates too much potential for uncertainty and inconsistency. We are seeking consultees’ views on a range of short- and long-term reforms, with the aim of bringing as much certainty as possible to this difficult area of law.”
The Law Commission hopes to hold a series of regional events, and we were thrilled when the Commissioners asked to come to Leeds and seek views here. As graduate of Leeds University, I also thought this would be a good opportunity to showcase the law department’s wonderful new facilities.
We were delighted to welcome so many of the region’s leading family lawyers, but it was equally important that others were given an opportunity to express their views. Some pertinent issues were discussed, from the proliferation of divorce ‘folk myths’ to the mounting challenges currently faced by those who decide to represent themselves in court. I am confident that the points raised at our Leeds event will prove valuable to the Law Commission as it develops its final recommendations to Parliament.