Make divorce tougher on women, says leading lawyer

Baroness Deech believes the current system teaches them to go out 'and find a footballer'

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The Independent Online

A leading peer is calling for the divorce law to be tougher on women as she believes the current system teaches them to go out “and find a footballer.”

Baroness Deech, the outgoing chair of the Bar Standards Board, told the Financial Times that large divorce settlements are sending out a “bad message to young women”.

She said: “Go to an Islington dinner party... go along to anything you like and say the word divorce and people will tell you the most horrendous stories. People feel it’s terribly unfair and most urgently in need of reform.”

She said the situation says to young women: “Never mind about A-Levels, or a degree or taking the Bar course – come out and find a footballer.”

Although there’s a lot of talk about how women should be half of the Supreme Court and half of the FTSE boards “we have a whole area of law which says once you are married you need never go out to work, [that] you are automatically entitled to everything you might need even if that marriage breaks down and it’s your fault,” she added.

England has gained a reputation as divorce capital of the world because of vast financial settlements it gives to the spouses of the wealthy.

In December, a judge ruled that hedge fund investor Sir Chris Hohn should pay his former wife, Jamie Cooper-Hohn, £337m. It was the UK’s biggest ever divorce settlement.

Baroness Deech has been an outspoken critic about the uncertainties in divorce law and the legal bills run up by divorcing couples.

She is steering a private member’s Bill through the Lords that will make prenuptial and postnuptial agreements binding. There would be a division upon divorce of all the property the couple acquired after marriage, but not assets owned before.

The Law Commission, which looked at whether the law needs to be changed, recommended taking account of couples’ wishes including recognising prenuptial agreements.

The plans were supported by divorce lawyers who wanted the agreements to become widespread rather than merely for the rich.

But pro-marriage organisations fear it could lead to more divorces and end the romantic notion of marriage.