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Mary Welstead


The clamour of voices crying out for reform of the law relating to financial provision on divorce is regularly heard. The judiciary, the academic community, lawyers and prospective divorcees have all expressed concern about the problematic nature of the current law and the urgent need for change.1 Yet these same voices rarely draw attention to the major defects inherent in divorce law itself. The battle for divorce reform which dominated the family law debate during the latter part of the 20th century appears to have been abandoned, along with the decision in 2001 by Lord Irvine of Lairg, the then Lord Chancellor, not to bring into force the major reforms to divorce law contained in Part II of the Family Law Act 1996 (see below). There is now an uneasy and, for the most part, a silent acceptance that the majority of spouses who want to bring their relationship to a legal end will find a way of doing so. The fact that they might have to resort to a massaging of the law, which may at times border on outright dishonesty, to secure their freedom and the right to embark on a new legal relationship, is largely ignored. Indeed in many family law textbooks and family law courses, the topic of divorce is barely discussed. It is viewed as an administrative process with little legal content to it. The few cases which do come before the courts are given similar scant treatment, even when they draw attention to the fundamental problems in the current law, a law which is both outdated and confusing.

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