A Welcome

Welcome to the Group’s first open event, “What is marriage? What should it be?” a  debate focusing on the nature of marriage today and its significance in relation to the future of ancillary relief.

Family law is changing at a pace very few would have thought possible. With the Family Justice Review underway, for the first time in decades our family courts are engaging in a soul-searching exercise; earnestly thinking of ways to improve the system and to deliver a humanitarian service that is family friendly and forward-looking.

Yet before any meaningful solutions can be found, fundamental questions must be asked about the nature of marriage, its place in modern society and the pressing need to reconcile the ever-present desire to marry, with the waning ability to do so.

The answers to these questions impact heavily upon the way courts can settle disagreements amongst spouses. Current research suggests that ancillary relief orders are on the rise. In 2009, there were 18,900 Orders made to settle such disputes. This figure has now risen to 20,200 in 2010 alone.

Divorce and separation are amongst some of the most traumatic experiences any family can face in their lifetime. It is during these times that families need certainty and stability, which extends to the right to have clear, simple guidelines on what it is any family can expect when asking the court to assist them.

Mr Justice Mostyn leads this debate on ancillary relief with his experience not only as a lawyer and High Court judge of the Family Division, but also as someone who has experienced the effects of divorce himself, having been exposed to his parents’ whilst growing up.

Family Law is at an exciting cross-roads; with the possibility of making things better for parents and children alike, “What is marriage? What should it be?” is a platform for change and an opportunity to look in-depth at ancillary relief through the philosophy of marriage, a natural starting point for a system undergoing reform.

Natasha Phillips

Secretariat, All Party Parliamentary Group on Family Law and The Court of Protection

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