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Britain's most senior Judge supports calls to reform family law

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Baroness Hale, the President of the Supreme Court, has extended her support to ongoing calls to reform family law in England and Wales.

In a recent interview with The Times, Baroness Hale identified flaws and “injustices” in existing divorce laws.

She expressed frustration at the fact that couples who wish to divorce are required to informally separate for at least two years before they are able to legally end their marriage.

Currently, this is true unless one party accuses the other of being ‘at fault’, in which case a marriage can be dissolved sooner. Due to this, campaigners have been calling for the introduction of ‘no-fault’ divorce for several years.

Baroness Hale said: “Most people, when their marriage is at an end, do not want to separate for two years, or five if the other party to the marriage won’t consent to a divorce.

“So they bring proceedings based on either the adultery or behaviour of the other party. That enables, in most cases, them to get a quick divorce,” she explained.

“But the basis of that decree hardly ever tells the whole story, who was to blame. It looks as if it is doing so, but it is not, and so causes injustice, probably on both sides,” she said.

In her first interview since being appointed as Head of the Supreme Court, Baroness Hale also called for changes to the laws governing the separation of unmarried cohabiting couples.

She told The Times that there should be “a remedy for unmarried couples in English law, along the same basis as in Scotland” when it comes to the dissolution of a relationship.

Currently, some six million cohabitees living in England and Wales have no legal rights in the event of a separation.

All throughout this week, family law foundation Resolution is trying to raise awareness of this – and the fact that there is no such thing as ‘common law marriage’ – as part of its Cohabitation Awareness Week campaign.

MFG Solicitors’ family team can advise on divorce, separation and all other aspects of family law, including the preparation of legally-binding cohabitation agreements. For more information about how we could help you, please contact us.