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Government: ‘now is not the right time’ for review of marriage law

Date:27 OCT 2017
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The Government has informed the Law Commission that ‘now is not the right time’ for a full review of marriage law.

In a letter to the Commission, Justice Minister Dominic Raab highlighted the ‘significant pressure’ currently being placed on the family justice system by the sustained increase in public and private law cases and said that efforts are to be focussed on alleviating these pressures, in order to deliver the best outcomes for children and families.

The letter was in response to Getting Married: A Scoping Paper, the Law Commission’s 2015 report, which identified issues with the way marriages are conducted in England and Wales. It highlighted potential problems with how marriages are registered, what paperwork a couple must complete before their wedding takes place, who can conduct marriages, and where they can take place.
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Law Commissioner, Professor Nick Hopkins, said:

‘Getting married can be one of the best days in someone’s life. But our Victorian laws haven’t kept pace with the modern world. Reform has the potential to allow all couples to marry in a way that’s meaningful to them.

We understand parliamentary time is precious at the moment but don’t believe that the need for reform will go away.

We hope we can continue our work in this area in the future, and welcome the Minister’s promise to keep the situation under review.’

Kathryn Evans, associate and Katy Moody, solicitor, of Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth, said:

‘The response of Dominic Raab to the marriage law reforms is disappointing but sadly come as no surprise given the various family law matters that require parliamentary and governmental attention, such as no-fault divorce and rights for cohabitants. Much of that time, which could perhaps otherwise have been allocated to such matters, is likely to be taken up with plans for Brexit which in itself is likely to have huge ramifications for family law.

Social attitudes to marriage have changed considerably in recent years. While Raab states that the government is trying to deal with an increase in public and private law cases, the outdated laws – not only relating to marriage but to divorce – only add to this problem and increase the amount of family matters which are dealt with by the already stressed court system.Hopkins is correct in that the pressure for reform will not subside.’