Former High Court Judge Sir Paul Coleridge has backed a newspaper campaign for family law reform.
Writing in The Times this week, the Marriage Foundation chair described the Family Matters campaign as “both timely and courageous” and expressed his full support. The aims of Family Matters include the introduction of ‘no fault’ divorce, automatic recognition in court of prenuptial agreements, and an end to ‘joint lives’ maintenance awards.
Sir Paul writes that family law has always been an emotive topic:
“The reason is simple. Family law touches the most important part of our lives: our private lives, and everyone, whatever their views on other subjects, has a view on this one.”
He notes that there has been no significant review of divorce law in England and Wales since the 1960s, despite significant social developments in the decades since. Sir Paul, who retired as an occasionally controversial High Court Judge in April 2014, insists that
“Like it or not, the patterns of our social and domestic life change over time and the laws that frame it have to be updated.”
Cohabitation, a rarity in the 1960s and 70s, is now mainstream, while gay marriage is legal. Despite this, there has been no review of the legal, social and financial principles behind marriage he notes.
“These laws have become anachronistic and, to deploy a much overused expression, are no longer fit for purpose as regards the regularising of our private lives.”
To date, however, governments have been extremely reluctant to intervene he says, while family breakdown and cohabitation rates continue to climb, particularly amongst lower income groups.
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