The private sector should take the lead in developing more innovative and ‘daring’ alternatives to the ‘bloodshed, time and cost’ of court, according to a retiring family judge.
Announcing the he is stepping down from full-time judging, Sir Paul Coleridge also called for an overhaul of outdated divorce laws.
He told a conference in London yesterday that he will devote more time to the Marriage Foundation – the charity he set up two years ago – and to ‘explore and push’ the possibilities of out-of-court alternative dispute resolution.
English courts need to follow other jurisdictions and be more ‘innovative and much more daring’ in this field, he said.
Save in rare cases, Coleridge said the ‘days of gladiatorial wars of titans’ are over; ‘the dinosaurs have had their day’.
Even the most intractable and difficult cases, he suggested, can be solved in a more ‘sophisticated and modern way’ with less ‘bloodshed, time and cost’.
He said the private sector has to pioneer the work and pave the way for change, as ‘we cannot wait for the courts to get round to moving into a more streamlined and user-friendly environment’.
Coleridge called for an independent commission to take a ‘new and fresh’ look at the current divorce laws, which have been unchanged for 40 years.
Family law, he said, should regulate how life is lived now, not in the ‘distant past'.
Current divorce and financial provision law, he said, was ‘designed in a wholly different era to deal with a wholly different society and way of life’ and is no longer fit for purpose.
‘In the immortal words of John Cleese it is dead as a parrot, it is no more, it has gone to meet its maker. Or should do.’
The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, he said has ‘had its day’ and should be ‘humanely killed off’.