Second lease of life for Mackay's Bill

THE CONTROVERSY surrounding Lord Mackay's Divorce Law Reform Bill could end this week if reports about its inclusion in the Queen's Speech prove correct.

Family lawyers are standing firm in their support of the Lord Chancellor, saying his plans to introduce a no-fault divorce system are essential.

And they have also welcomed claims that his abandoned Family Homes and Domestic Violence Bill could be reworked and introduced under the banner of the Divorce Bill.

“I was very supportive of that Bill and I was very disappointed when it was dropped,” said Family Law Consortium partner and mediator Gillian Bishop.

“I'm very pleased to hear it is coming back, albeit as part and parcel of the Divorce Law Reform Bill.”

Last week Mackay attempted to allay fears that mediation would become compulsory under his proposed changes and that lawyers would be excluded from the divorce process.

Addressing the Solicitors Family Law Association, he said people would be “encouraged” to give mediation a “fair chance”.

However, he said “by definition, mediation cannot be forced upon unwilling participants”. He added: “It concerns me that my wish and desire to save more marriages and my belief in mediation as a viable means of sorting out the consequences of marriage breakdown, is being interpreted by some as being 'anti-lawyer'.

“Mediators cannot take the place of lawyers in giving legal advice and assistance. No one needing such legal help will be denied that help, provided they meet the usual eligibility tests.

“In being positive about mediation, I am not being negative about lawyers.”