Lecture questions whether 21st century family law is fit for purpose

Monday 25 April 2016

Marilyn Stowe, senior partner at Stowe Family Law and alumna of Leeds Girls’ High School, delivered the 2016 Mark Bailey lecture at The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL).

She discussed how the landscape of family law has changed over the years in England and Wales. Factors like the ever-evolving role of women in mainstream society, the baby boom generation and the introduction of gay marriage have all caused significant shifts in the country.

Family law has adapted quite significantly over the last few decades, but Marilyn questioned whether it was still fit for purpose as it is now. The main aim of family law is to seek justice, but does our current system do that effectively in the 21st century?

She cited the devastating cuts to legal aid, the push towards out-of-court settlements even without a lawyer and the lack of any meaningful laws to protect the rights of cohabitants as possible areas where the pursuit of justice has been made more difficult. Some measures appear to be paving the way for a two-tier system, especially when it comes to divorce, so in which the rich have access to the law while everyone else has to do it themselves.

However, she also pointed out that London is often called the divorce capital of the world because of the heavy premium our laws put on fairness and fair play. In these respects, she said, England is the envy of the world.

So is family law fit for purpose? Marilyn ultimately left it up to the audience to decide but said that in the end, it is all about justice.

The Mark Bailey lecture series has been running for six years, with high profile speakers on diverse subjects from cyber security, to how to be world class and modern day cardiology. The annual lecture is held in in honour of GSAL’s former head teacher Professor Mark Bailey.

Read the full transcript of Marilyn Stowe’s speech or visit our video page to view the lecture in full.

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