Several leading judges and lawyers have backed a campaign in the Times newspaper for sweeping reforms to divorce law, which they describe as “unjust and outdated”.
The campaign calls for the following changes:
· Scrapping of fault-based divorce laws, allowing divorce within a year where both sides agree, and two where they do not, as in Scotland.
· Ending the outdated and patronising “meal ticket for life” that can result from laws on splitting assets and awarding maintenance after divorce, except where hardship would be caused.
· Giving pre-nuptial contracts the backing and force of statute. At present they are non-statutory, which leads to further uncertainty and bitterness when marriages fail.
· Extending civil partnerships to straight couples so that they can have the same security as married couples should they wish. Civil partnerships are offered only to same-sex couples at present.
· Create some rights for long-term unmarried couples who break up. This would remove injustices that occur when one partner is left without any right to financial award or maintenance, possibly after many years of living together.
Former High Court judge Sir Paul Coleridge, who is now chairman of the Marriage Foundation, said: “We must urgently do something about the laws on marriage and divorce. These are antediluvian and no longer fit for purpose. ”Our chief concern is to address the impact of the breakdown of relationships, particularly where there are children. These breakdowns have devastating consequences for both adults and children that can last for decades.”
Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the lord chancellor to two prime ministers, and Baroness Butler-Sloss, president of the High Court family division, have also backed the campaign.
So far, the government has not given any indication that it is prepared to consider change and has rejected similar calls in the past.
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