Page last updated at 10:08 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 11:08 UK

England 'divorce haven' of Europe

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England has become the "divorce capital of Europe", according to a senior family lawyer.

The system is paternalistic and unprincipled, says Lady Deech, chair of the Bar Standards Board.

Huge assets can be divided equally after only a few years of marriage, sending the wrong message, she says.

A leading defence lawyer says judges do recognise that women in short marriages should not be compensated in the same way as in long marriages.

Wrong message

Lady Deech says settlements that automatically keep ex-wives in comfort at the expense of ex-husbands are wrong.

"Trot down the road to the law courts and there you'll find a woman with maybe no particular qualifications, married for a short time to a celebrity of some sort, will walk away with many, many millions", Lady Deech says.

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She believes it is sending the wrong message to women, at the same time as they're being told they should take top jobs and earn as much as men.

"The message that's going out is marry a footballer, marry a banker, stick it out for a few years and your lifestyle will always be on that level", she says.

Lady Deech also says the divorce process wastes too much money, and calls on the government to reform the divorce laws to make the process fairer.

She says judges should only consider splitting assets acquired after the marriage, not those from before the marriage, which could include pensions and inheritances.

Reality different

Leading divorce lawyer, Vanessa Lloyd Platt, has worked on many celebrity divorce cases. She says the reality for women is different, and a "catch-all" law wouldn't work for everyone.

"Women will have to give up careers to look after children, and they must be properly compensated", she says.

Judges already begin with a starting point of a fifty-fifty split, she adds, and they do recognise that women in short marriages should not be compensated in the same way as in long marriages.



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