Law Soc set to drop divorce Bill backing

ALL Law Society support for Lord Mackay's troubled Family Law Bill looks likely to be withdrawn.

Sources indicate that the Law Society can no longer endorse the Bill, which is already coming under sustained attack from Labour.

The society complains that the measures Mackay proposes will increase the costs and prolong the length of divorce. The society also feels the Bill, whose future is becoming ever-more uncertain, has become such a mess it will not work.

However, the society is likely to stress its continued support for the principle of no-fault divorce, the use of mediation, and the family home and domestic violence proposals contained in the Bill

The crisis comes at the end of a difficult week for the Bill in which the Government has been forced into making concessions to lawyers, the Labour Party and its own rebels.

The Government conceded to the Law Society and family law groups by abandoning the Bill's clause which suggested mediation was more appropriate than legal advice. But the compromise proposal, that couples attend a mediation session as well as the initial divorce information meeting was also attacked by lawyers.

The Law Society and the Solicitors Family Law Association agreed that the meeting would increase the costs and length of the divorce process.

And they pointed to a new Law Society survey which revealed that 87 per cent of couples thought independent legal advice should be available.

SFLA chair Nigel Shepherd said: “Another meeting would seem bullying and condescending. It is like saying to couples 'You have got a free choice as long as it's mediation.'”

He said the SFLA would continue to fight the Government through the Bill's report stage until it no longer forced mediation upon couples.