English divorce law was “designed for a wholly different era”, a High Court judge has claimed.
Sir Paul Coleridge said an independent commission should take a “new and fresh” look at divorce and financial provision law. He told the Family Law Conference in London this week:
“Since family law is intended to regulate family life as it is lived now and not in the distant past, it follows that the current divorce and financial provision law (not to mention the law relating to unmarried partners) is no longer, I suggest, fit for purpose.”
“It was designed in a wholly different era to deal with a wholly different society and way of life. In the immortal words of John Cleese it is a dead parrot. It is no more; it has gone to meet its maker. Or should do.”
The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, “with all its layers of crustacean growth needs to be humanely killed off and given a decent burial”, he claimed.
“…the heroic efforts of the Supreme Court to maintain the life support system need to stop. The Act has, quite simply, had its day.”
The courts should aim to be “innovative and much more daring”.
Most modern cases were not “gladiatorial wars of the titans”, insisted Sir Paul, and a more modern approach would save “bloodshed, time and cost”.
“The dinosaurs have had their day”, he insisted.
Sir Paul also told delegates of his plans to retire, “at least on a full time basis”, after more than 13 years as a High Court judge. He intends to devote more time to campaign group the Marriage Foundation, which he founded last year, and to “explore and push the possibilities of out of court ADR, mediation and arbitration processes.”