Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Listen and Comprehend

Each year when I receive my copy of The Family Court Practice I read the Introduction, primarily to see what is new in this years' edition. The Introduction is written by the General Editor, His Honour Judge Anthony Cleary, and is notable this year for his comments on the need to reform s.25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act, following "broad hints" from the courts "that reform is long overdue, particularly since the overwhelming majority of ancillary relief disputes are commercially in a very different league to the "big money cases" and are still driven more by need than principles of equality". As a practitioner who does not deal with "big money cases" I could not agree more. As I have indicated here on a number of occasions, if the statutory guidance were clearer, then I'm sure that a far higher proportion of cases could be settled, thus saving precious resources.

I've also complained about the clear reluctance of Parliament to address this important issue, and His Honour goes one further by questioning whether Parliament is "currently the most suitable vehicle to investigate and reform" this or any other area of family law, in the light of the effects of the criminalisation of breach of non-molestation injunctions, where he says that "there remains a suspicion that this reform paid too much attention to newspaper headlines" and that "family practitioners and judges were ignored". "It is crucial", he says, "that law makers show a greater ability to listen and comprehend." Quite.

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