Solicitors warn of misery over divorce law changes

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PROPOSALS to change the divorce laws could lead to greater misery for couples and unleash problems worse than those caused by the Child Support Agency, the solicitors' governing body warned yesterday, writes Jason Bennetto.

The Law Society was responding to the Government consultation paper Facing the Future, which proposes legislation to enable couples to obtain a 'no-fault' divorce after a year. Couples would be encouraged to seek mediation to resolve disputes over children and finance; they could be denied legal aid if they refused and insisted on going through the courts.

Rodger Pannone, president of the Law Society, said the Government's Green Paper plans amounted to a 'startling abdication of its duty to ensure justice is done'. He said the paper ignored the vital need divorcing couples had for legal advice on their rights and responsibilities.

'The Government does not seem to have learned any lessons from the debacle of the Child Support Agency. Its proposals aim to cut costs but it has ignored the importance of ensuring that individuals have full access to legal advice and representation.'

The society welcomed the possibility of 'no-fault' divorce and the extension of mediation services, but challenged the Government to explain how this would produce any savings.

The Solicitors' Family Law Association yesterday condemned the proposal that everyone planning a divorce should attend a compulsory first interview, with those refusing mediation possibly being denied legal aid.