The All Party Parliamentary Group on Family Law met for the first time in the Palace of Westminster on Tuesday evening to debate What is Marriage? What obligations should it entail?
The aim of the Parliamentary Group is to look at issues that fall within the jurisdiction of the Family Courts, including the Court of Protection and discuss proposals for legislative reform.
Recently appointed High Court judge Sir Nicholas Mostyn opened the debate and questioned if marriage was an economic union, as the post White position would suggest, should one party have a right of confidentiality in respect of the papers of that partnership? On this point he highlighted the apparent paradox in the recent decisions of Radmacher and Imerman.
Sir Nicholas also commented that the courts have had to make up for a lack of legislation on the division of matrimonial property, and this has not always been consistent. He called on the Law Commission to expand its remit from examining the status and enforceability of nuptial agreements to include the legal context of marriage generally.
The Parliamentary Group is chaired by John Hemming MP, who in 2008 released a pop single, Bring the Sunshine In, to raise awareness for his Justice for Families Campaign Group. Speaking ahead of the inaugural debate, John Hemming said: "This is an important issue that does not get sufficient attention within Parliament. Baroness Deech has quite rightly started up a debate about this issue and this event will be a helpful part of taking that debate forwards."
Baroness Deech, the Parliamentary Group's Vice-Chair said: "The question of financial relief is one that has not been addressed by Parliament for decades. In changing economic times and with new perspectives on marriage, cohabitation and the roles of men and women in family life, it is time to reopen the debate about the principles that should govern the allocation of assets and support on divorce."
The next All Party Parliamentary Group meeting is on 30 November and will feature the Family Law Review Project.