Family Law Forum

Baroness Deech

Last night the All Party Parliamentary Group on Family Law held its first meeting, open to the public and parliamentarians.  Its purpose is to discuss areas of concern in family law and child law, and think about reform.  Despite the tube strike (no sympathy here for the underground employees) there was a good turnout, and plenty of questions.  Our speaker was Sir Nicholas Mostyn, recently appointed a Judge in the Family Division of the High Court.  In fact, he had visited the Queen on the occasion of his appointment that very day, and it was the beginning of his new career.  At the Bar, he was one of the most renowned family barristers of his generation, and had participated in many of the famous cases – Paul McCartney’s divorce, Sir Martin Sorrell’s and, most recently, the prenup case, Granatino v. Radmacher.

Sir Nicholas’ talk was on the topic of What is Marriage? What obligations should it entail? Without expressing a personal opinion (because of course he is a judge) he raised the questions of whether a spouse should indeed shoulder the burden of supporting the other for life once they have married; whether agreements between a couple should be allowed to displace judicial intervention; and whether mediation can help.  The audience was quite clear in their comments and votes on the issues, that a. there should be a short clear and comprehensive statement of the obligations of marriage made available to all who marry (how about on the back of the wedding certificate?), or likewise cohabit; and b. that a system of community of property on marriage would be preferable to the existing expensive and acrimonious litigation about money, and that people should  able to make contracts about it. 

The speaker and the audience agreed that Parliament should legislate about money on divorce, and not leave it all to the judges.  But successive governments have backed away from this topic because there is no national consensus about the roles of man and woman in a relationship, and because it might lead them into morality debates, always tricky for governments. Royal Commissions take too long. We must continue the debate however.  Our next APPG meeting is on 30 November and will feature the Family Law Review Project.

6 comments for “Family Law Forum

  1. Carl.H
    03/11/2010 at 7:54 pm

    My Lady, I think you know I am in agreement on most of your ideas on this subject. Isn`t it about time Government grew up and faced adult issues such as this ?

    I am fed up with Government shying away from anything that may seem contentious when they take it home, or thats how it seems. We`ve many grey areas the Government appear to run away from every chance they get, prostitution, drug debates, divorce law et al.

    They are quite willing to stand up for equality in a way that suits them, makes them seem fair and just but cannot say when two people break up that also should be equal.

    ” No national consensus about the roles of man and woman in a relationship”.

    There can never be consensus, each relationship is different however they are quick to point out my chauvanism in the fact my wife and I relate in a very old fashioned way regards chores. We are still equal though, just different.

    How can a Government legislate that a child is entitled to (needs)£x to live on and then a Court rule it needs ten times as much ? How can a Government say a single parent should still work and then allow the CSA toclaim for both parent & child from the ex-spouse.

    Man or woman, we are both in modern times equally capable and to make one less or more responsible for the other after a breakupis absurd and beyond the rationale of what we are trying to achieve in terms of equality.

    Marriage is a contract, there should be negotiations, a pre-nuptial agreement. If these were made in every single marriage there would be far less work for the mercenaries who are the Lawyers, who in the interest of their client only appear to worsen the conflict.

    We have statuatory amounts people need to live in this Country, we have law that states a woman with a child over the age of x is quite capable of finding work. Why when it gets to Divorce courts is all this forgotten ?

  2. Gareth Howell
    04/11/2010 at 8:24 am

    In my own journey thru family (and tribal) history the Law book of Hywel dda figures large in the 10thC.

    They took the trouble to “class” women according to status, whether a chattel, with property, without, or even a woman of means.
    The cheapest was whore.

    The book was condemned later by the church for having classed women in this way.

    Law for the division of assets is also to be found in the book.

    Does anything change?

  3. Gareth Howell
    04/11/2010 at 6:13 pm

    I wonder whether the noble baroness is concerned with the RIGHTS of women as well as their EQUALITY?

    Regarding my post above, it is fair to say that
    Hywel’s book of Law was not concerned with Equality(!) but very much concerned with their due rights, once they had been classed in to about seven different groups.

    Marriage may or may not be a contract; many couples agree that they are married between themselves, and do not go to the law of written contract, even before they start.

    Why should they?

  4. Carl.H
    06/11/2010 at 11:35 pm

    Question: If an ex-husband, or wife, for that matter have been ordered by a court to pay for a child although not living with them would they still be entitled to Child Tax Credits as if they were ?

    Here`s what HMRC state about claiming Tax Credits:

    ” Child Tax Credit is for people who are responsible for at least one child or qualifying young person. Child Tax Credit is paid direct to the person who is mainly responsible for caring for the child or children. If you are a lone parent you will receive the payment. Child Tax Credit can be paid to workers who continue to pay UK National Insurance Contributions when posted from the UK to work in another country in the European Economic Area.

    Working Tax Credit is for people who are employed or self-employed (either on their own or in a partnership), who
    •usually work 16 hours or more a week
    •are paid for that work, and
    •expect to work for at least 4 weeks

    and who are

    •aged 16 or over and responsible for at least one child, or
    •aged 16 or over and disabled, or
    •aged 25 or over and usually work at least 30 hours a week

    Working Tax Credit is paid to the person who is working 16 hours or more a week. Couples, if both of you are working 16 hours or more a week, must choose which one of you will receive it. You cannot receive Working Tax Credit if you are not working. ”

    So a Court in stating an ex is responsible for a child financially must surely make them applicable for Tax Credits ? They are without a doubt caring for the child in a financial way.

  5. 08/11/2010 at 12:39 am

    Good to see people are willing to discuss and raise serious questions. The “What is marriage” is an important one.

    Many couples do find a prenuptial agreement helpful because it can force them to openly discuss expectations. Many divorces arise from unrealistic expectations and failure to communicate.

    As prenups require independent legal advice (at least in Sydney Australia) it helps ensure things are uncovered. Prenups don’t prevent family court cases but they can give both sides a more realistic view earlier in the relationship.

  6. Kenton Mann
    09/12/2010 at 9:48 am

    Considerations for the family review here is my personal experience of the system and things l see could be improved.

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