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Legislation governing family life should be overhauled to better reflect 21st century living, leading family lawyers have said.
The message comes in response to comments made by Bar Standards Board chair Baroness Deech last week. Deech slammed divorce lawyers for being unfair to men and belittling to women.
In a lecture delivered at Gresham College she said: “The notion that a wife should get half of the joint assets of a couple after even a short, childless marriage has crept up on us without any parliamentary legislation to this effect.” Women claim “equal pay and opportunities in employment, while there is contraception to enable a family to be planned, and more women are entering higher education and the professions than men”, she argued.
Manches family partner James Stewart said that although Deech’s views may be deemed “controversial and perceived as reactionary… many family lawyers accept that the present system in England and Wales is unsatisfactory. Law reform is required.”
Withers partner Mark Harper added: “When the House of Lords revolutionised our law in 2000 in White v White it was done piecemeal, without research or study or consideration of the consequences. That change in law set light to a torchpaper leading to many test cases, clogging the courts to the benefit of divorce lawyers.”
The family courts are loaded with cases that could be sorted out readily with law reform, Stewart argued.
Mishcon de Reya partner David Lister said: “The point is that the interpretation of the law has changed dramatically.”
Lawyers are calling for sweeping reform in legislation governing ancillary relief, cohabitation, prenuptial agreements and international divorce laws.