Cohabiting couples should enjoy the same legal protection as those who are married, the most senior family law judge in England and Wales has said. He also called for the idea of fault or blame to be completely removed from divorce, and added that divorce could largely be taken out of the court system, with marriages dissolved by officials instead of judges, in a similar way to the registration of births or deaths.
Andrea Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre, criticised the comments saying: “The elite seems to have lost confidence in marriage and appears intent on diluting and dismantling it. Last month we had the first same-sex ‘marriages’. Now we have the country’s most senior family judge suggesting that the protection of commitment be significantly downgraded.
“If divorce becomes still less serious, it will be children and the most vulnerable who suffer most.”
According to the Daily Telegraph, Sir James Munby, president of the High Court Family Division, said that the family itself had changed beyond recognition in the past few decades.“The fact is that many adults and children, whether through choice or circumstance, live in families more or less removed from what, until comparatively recently, would have been recognised as the typical nuclear family.”
He insisted that rather than undermining the “sanctity of marriage”, he was simply introducing “a bit of intellectual honesty” about how society had changed.
He went on to say that one result of major social changes had been a “striking decline” in marriage leaving growing numbers of those who have cohabited with little or no rights if they separate.
Women in particular find themselves effectively “thrown on the scrap-heap”, he said
“This is an injustice which has been recognised as long as I have been in the law.” he remarked.
He also called for divorces in cases where there are no children to be handled by what “one might describe as the registrar of births, deaths, marriages and divorces. It seems to work (in other jurisdictions).”