Page last updated at 21:50 GMT, Monday, 18 October 2010 22:50 UK

Divorce system debate

Divorce law in England is "unfair, uncertain and expensive", peers have heard.

In a debate on 18 October 2010, family law expert Baroness Deech branded the current system "out of date" and "out of step" with the rest of the EU.

The crossbench peer argued that deficiencies in the law result in high litigation costs and have a negative impact on families.

"There is enormous public anger, especially among those who have been involved in divorce," she said.

"They find this state of affairs unjust and immoral. They do not see why maintenance continues to be paid to an ex-wife who is pregnant by, or living with, another man, or why conduct is not taken into account."

Baroness Deech described the current system as "regressive", and said it favoured women who married rich men.

"The law rewards most significantly the non-working wife of a wealthy man - almost regardless of the length of the marriage, children and contribution.

"The message given out to young women is that their life's success has to be tied to finding - and, perhaps, divorcing - a man of means, rather than working to support themselves."

Baroness Deech called for the government to move to a European law for the division of matrimonial assets, and to recognise prenuptial agreements made between spouses.

Lord Bach, replying for Labour, said that current divorce law leads to "too much uncertainty" for couples trying to come to financial settlements.

The shadow justice minister welcomed the government's decision to continue with an independent review of the family justice system which was started by the previous Labour government. The panel is due to publish an interim report in the spring of 2011.

Lord McNally, winding up for the government, said that there were "no silver bullets or quick-fix solutions" to the issue.

He said that ministers would wait until the outcome of the family justice review before making any firm decisions on divorce law reform.

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