Baroness Deech: divorce system sends wrong message to women

Divorce|December 31st 2014

The current divorce system sends a “bad message” to young women, crossbench peer Baroness Deech has claimed, discouraging them from achievement on their own merits.

Speaking to the Financial Times, the Baroness said this message was essentially:

“Never mind about A-levels or a degree or taking the Bar course — come out and find a footballer.”

The academic and lawyer has actively campaigned to change the law surrounding financial provision on divorce. She has tabled a private member’s bill – the Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill – which is currently at committee stage in the House of Lords. If it reaches the statute books, the bill would make both pre- and postnuptial agreements legally binding, as well as protecting assets owned by each party prior to the marriage.

In an interview with the newspaper held to mark her departure from the Bar Standards Board, the peer insisted that generous divorce settlements sent the wrong message to women. Despite claims that they should be pushing to reach the top in business or law, she said:

“…we have a whole area of law which says once you are married you need never go out to work, [that] you are automatically entitled to everything you might need even if that marriage breaks down and it’s your fault.”

People report the “most horrendous stories” when the topic of divorce comes up, she continued. There is a widespread perception that the current system is “terribly unfair” and in need of major change.

The Bar Standards Bar monitors training and standards for barristers.

For more on the Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill, see here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. Guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Nordic says:

    Baroness Deech is a shinning beacon of common sense in a sea of incompetence and ignorance.

  2. Rachel says:

    Somebody finally speaks some common sense!

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Dear Rachel
      Why? Id love to know why you agree? I can’t think of any women I know who do agree. Men perhaps. Women no.

      • Nordic says:

        Dear Marilyn
        I doubt you could find any woman in the Nordics that would agree with you and quite a few modern English women I know would balk at the 1950s attitudes you seem to encourage. You seriously think women should view marriage as a substitute for education?! Live in permanent state of dependency on a man, incapable of taking care of themselves? You think that is the right advice to women when half of new marriages will fail? You think this makes for a happy and fulfilled life post divorce, even if they got the house, kids and a massive spousal allowance? You would advice your daughter to marry and forget about ever standing on her own feet?
        I am gobsmacked.

      • Rachel says:

        Marilyn. I am an educated, hard working woman. I have worked throughout motherhood. I am married to a man who had a joint-lives maintenance liability towards his ex-wife, which has literally consumed and at times ruined our lives. I have had my financial affairs dragged through the Courts on several occasions and have recently given up my life savings to secure a capitalised clean break for my husband many many years after his divorce. What was so special about this woman? Nothing? She chose not to educate herself and work and so the courts placed responsibility upon my husband to bear financial responsibility for her for life – a gross and disproportionate outcome.

        Not all women want things for nothing. Many of us have our self-respect and esteem. I have written directly to Baroness Deech in support of her sensible view.

        • Rachel says:

          Marilyn – i should have said.. The cruellest thing of all about joint lives maintenance is the uncertainty it creates for all parties. Nobody knows where they stand financially. It also creates such perverse disincentives all round. Payers have no incentives to improve their careers, which is detrimental to society and recipients have neither carrot nor stick to gain independence. Also the legal costs to renegotiate are obscene and unfair. The intrusion of privacy for 2nd families is wholly unwarranted. Maintenance must be time limited IN EVERY CASE.

        • Nordic says:

          Marilyn and Rachel
          I think most second wives, who have to live with the consequences of the unfair and discriminatory treatment metered out to their new husbands, would agree with Rachel. For sure my (second) wife would. I managed to avoid a joint lives order, yet know all too well the damage caused by the almost unlimited uncertainty this system breads. We delayed getting married for years out of fear that this might expose my new wife to financial involvement in a divorce she had nothing whatsoever to do with. In a country where everybody talks incessantly about the benefits of marriage, English family law was the reason we did not dare make this commitment.
          I suspect that the supporters of the English system are largely to be found amongst the (first) wives who benefit from the ludicrously preferential treatment this system affords them and the professionals who profit from the legal vacuum at its centre. Compared to the Nordics and most Continental European jurisdictions, the divorce process in this country is outdated, discriminatory and brutal in the way it sets mums and dads up to fight for life. That anybody can believe this systems acts in “the best interest of the children” beggar belief.

      • Nordic says:

        Dear Marilyn
        I would be really interested in a reply to the above comments from Rachel and me.

  3. Andrew says:

    I expect Lady D agrees with herself!

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