The job of the law

The Telegraph yesterday reported that Sir Paul Coleridge has called for an independent commission to reform divorce law, declaring that the current law was “no longer fit for purpose”. I'm afraid, however, that I rather lost interest in his comments when I saw that they were addressed to the Christian charity Care, which obviously wanted to hear Sir Paul saying that the law fuelled an "alarming" rise in marital breakdown, thereby causing “profound” damage to millions of children. You see, I do not think that the law should be used as a tool to keep couples together - no law is going to transform an unhappy marriage into a happy one. The job of the law should be to deal with the consequences of marriage breakdown, not its prevention.


  1. nail people together - it's the christian way!

  2. Excellent idea! I shall tell Iain Duncan Smith...

  3. I'm not sure Sir Paul would have delivered a different speech had he been speaking to a group of humanists.

    Surely the point of the speech is that law influences behaviour and family law has shaped society. I would agree with that, you might disagree, but at least we should have the debate.

    We should also debate whether - assuming law does shape society - law should be changed by Parliament or by the judiciary.

    I would agree with Sir Paul in that Parliament has shirked its responsibility in this regard.

  4. The point of the post was whether the law should be used as a tool to keep couples together. The idea of forcing unhappy couples to stay married by making divorce harder is abhorrent to me. We should look at the reasons for family breakdown, rather than try to prevent it 'after the event'.

  5. As I read it, I don't think that was what Coleridge was suggesting.

    To take a slightly different tack, can the law actually be neutral in its effect? And if not, what should its role be?

    The Social Justice Policy Group estimated very conservatively (small c) that law reform was responsible for 20% of the increase in divorce rates between 1960 and 2002.

  6. Yes, I have not seen the whole speech - the post was really based upon the headline.

    My point is that the law does not alter whether a marriage breaks down, only whether the parties get divorced. Do we really want to return to the bad old days of unhappy couples being forced to remain together?

  7. The speech also says that there has been no consultation on divorce reform since 1950! That'll be news to the Law Commission and the Archbishop's Group (1967) as well as the Law Commission, again(1990) Parliament passing the Family Law Act 1996 etc etc ..
    Have I mis-read something?


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