A High Court judge has called for the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage to be abolished, saying there is no difference between married and cohabiting couples, and condemned the divorce system for giving special protection to wives.
The Daily Mail reports that Sir Nicholas Mostyn, whose own marriage collapsed after he committed adultery, said that there is no real evidence that marriage is more stabled than other relationships, adding that state support for marriage amounts to little more than “social engineering”.
Speaking to a family law conference, he said: “It is not the role of the state, in my humble opinion, to go round telling people how they should form their relationships,” adding: “I do not support two classes of adjudication depending on whether there happens to be a marriage. I support the extension of the existing system of judicial equitable distribution to the unmarried, warts and all.”
Earlier this year, senior judge Sir Paul Coleridge retired early after receiving a formal warning for campaigning in favour of traditional marriage. He said at his retirement ceremony: “I know how consoling and good a good marriage can be and how it gets better over the years and also how ghastly family breakdown can be. Something can and should be done to stem the tide of family breakdown.
“Family judges have a unique experience of this and therefore a unique contribution to make. We should not be afraid to speak out”.
He had also previously said that cohabiting couple should not have children if their relationship in “not strong enough” for marriage, although he added that more judges were afraid to speak out because expressing traditional views might harm their careers.
Sir Nicholas Mostyn divorced his wife Lucy in 2012 after leaving her for divorce barrister Elizabeth Saunders in 2010. During proceedings, Sir Nicholas was reported to have taken out an order against his wife to stop her speaking out publicly about the separation.
Sir Nicholas is also said to have earned up to £500 per hour while representing high-profile clients during their own divorces, including Sir Paul McCartney and Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer.
Researcher and writer family issues Patricia Morgan disagreed with Sir Nicholas’s comments, telling the Daily Mail: “The judge is wrong to say there is discrimination in favour of marriage.
“Marriage is discriminated against in the tax and benefit system. The only benefit is through inheritance, and couples who want to marry are not thinking about that – it is way down the line.”