The former lead judge of the Financial Remedy Court has called for a ‘rules-based system’ to determine financial remedies on divorce.
Mr Justice Mostyn spoke about judicial discretion at a meeting in parliament last night on financial remedies reform. The meeting was attended by Professor Nick Hopkins of the Law Commission, which is reviewing the laws governing finances on divorce, and an official from the Ministry of Justice.
Mostyn criticised the ‘appalling amount of costs’ routinely racked up in ‘middle money’ cases. ‘I suggest a system that allows grotesque levels of costs to be run up offends the key constitutional principle that justice should never have to be purchased’.
Previous attempts by Mostyn to set out simple rules for determining financial remedies had been ‘overpainted by woolly discretion in the Court of Appeal’, the meeting heard. ‘Reform is necessary now. For as long as the present system keeps overlaying simple rules with woolly discretion, it will never be predictable, transparent, economical or consistent.’
Mostyn was part of a panel discussion at last night’s meeting, hosted by family solicitor Siobhan Baillie, Conservative MP for Stroud. The panel also included Professor David Hodson OBE KC, high-profile divorce lawyer Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia and Baroness Deech.
Deech, who reintroduced a controversial bill in 2021 to reform the way the courts deal with financial settlements, told the meeting she wanted to see women treated as equal partners in divorce, 'not as dismissed servants'.
The commission aims to publish a 'scoping paper' in September 2024.