Monday, December 07, 2009

Lord Justice Munby calls for reform

There is an interesting, and perhaps significant, interview with Lord Justice Munby (left) in The Times today, in which he discusses the reform of family law. Significant because Lord Justice Munby has, of course, been Chairman of the Law Commission, since the 1st August.

Lord Justice Munby discusses two areas for reform. Firstly, he explains why cohabiting couples need new legal rights to protect them from injustice if they separate, and secondly he calls for a review of the ancillary relief rules governing division of assets on divorce. On the latter he has, most interestingly, dared to question the 'holy grail' that there should be one set of rules for all, irrespective of the value of their assets, suggesting that it may be advantageous having different rules for the wealthy. As I have said here many times before, I think that a review of the ancillary relief rules is long overdue and that some clearer guidance is required. However, having one set of rules for the rich and one for everyone else would, I suspect, be somewhat controversial.


  1. Every week I put £1 in to Camelot's sticky paw in the knowledge that I'm taking a bet with them and that if I lose, the pound goes too. It's a pretty dumb bet at 14m to 1, but I take it.

    Should it make any difference if I misunderstood this, for instance, if I honestly thought that I retained the £1 to the next bout and could withdraw it if I was tired of betting? The law doesn't ordinarily offer me compensation for my own free judgment or bad luck.

    I'm not forced to take the Camelot bet. I do that entirely voluntarily. If I didn't want to, but still fancied a gamble, there is another contract available to me. Premium Bonds retain my original stake and will return it to me at any time.

    We can all agree I'm a chump for taking the Camelot bet, but that's my affair and millions of people do likewise. However, if I take the Premium Bond bet, I expect the law to back me up if Ernie suddenly wakes up one day and refuses to run his lottery or refund the stake on demand.

    Most people understand that if you buy a Camelot lottery ticket you are not 'owed' winnings (except if their number comes up) or the return of the stake, so they should be able to grasp that in the absence of a ceremony which involves public dedication of each other and formal registration by the state - what we would recognize as a wedding, not a hand-fasting - they are not married.

    I do not accept the repeated assertion, whether by you, Judge Munby or Marilyn Stowe, that clients 'believe' they are married or have similar rights. The reason that I don't believe it is that I've been around as long as any of you, have met at least as many people from all walks of life and yet never once have I met a single one who couldn't tell the difference between the estates or know that they might have different rights in the event of a split.

    There is no injustice to correct here. There may be people who don't like the outcome of their free choices, but then, I shouldn't keep giving Camelot my money, should I?

  2. With respect, I really don't care how long you've been around or how many people you've met - I and most family lawyers have regularly come across people who believe in common law marriage.


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