• High Court Judge wants to reform laws on divorce and cohabitation
    5th July 2011

    A High Court judge has called for a radical shake-up of “outdated” family laws which he described as no longer fit for purpose.

    Sir Paul Coleridge says an independent commission should be set up to look at ways of reforming the law relating to divorce and cohabitation because family relationships are now “unrecognisable” from 60 years ago when the last review was carried out.

    Sir Paul, who sits as Mr Justice Coleridge in the High Court, said that in the last five years there had been a 35% increase in private law cases, including those involving divorcing couples and cohabiting couples whose relationships had broken down.

    He said there had also been a 31% rise over the last two years in public law cases, partly reflecting the fact that more children were brought into care in the wake of the Baby P case.

    Sir Paul said that approximately 320,000 children enter the family law system each year which meant that more than 3 million are now involved in some form of legal process.

    He said: “The scale of the problem is genuinely alarming. The incidence of family breakdown is so terribly high now that the way in which family law is shaped and managed has, I believe, a direct and profound impact on the private lives of huge numbers of the population.”

    Sir Paul said reform was long overdue because there had been no comprehensive examination of divorce law since the Royal Commission of 1950.

    “When the last major reform was introduced there was no such thing as cohabitation outside marriage. The current law is ‘a dead parrot’ - it is no longer fit for purpose.”

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