Baroness Deech calls for reform of divorce law

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In a series of lectures and speeches, Baroness Deech has called for a reform of current divorce law, stating controversially that “the message [sent by the current law] is that getting married to a well-off man is an alternative career to one in the workforce”.

Deech argues that although our maintenance laws are still influenced by the notion of female dependency on the male, 70% of women work, leading to injustice for males in divorce proceedings.

These comments have been widely discussed in the media this week, with some taking the same stance, that couples of marriages which last under three years should not divide assets at all, and maintenance should only be paid where the claimant spouse has care of young children or is unable to work.

Others have argued that the point is not whether the law is unfair on men, but rather that divorce settlements are a ‘lottery’ and a more just reform would be to curb judge’s discretion. This would allow lawyers to give their clients an idea of what to expect in terms of settlement, and would also prevent the current public attitude that women benefit too greatly from divorce.

Furthermore, the type of ‘big money’ cases to which Baroness Deech is referring in her speeches are highly uncommon. In the majority of divorce cases the assets of the couple barely meet the needs of both parties and so the issue is not whether the woman is receiving more than her share, but rather ensuring that both parties have sufficient resources following the settlement.

Either way, the current law has failed to keep up with family dynamics and structures in the UK. Divorce is a controversial subject which affects many people’s lives, and therefore needs to be discussed rather than avoided by politicians.

Read an edited extract of one of Baroness Deech’s speeches on this matter.

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