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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

07 FEB 2011

Sir Nicholas Wall calls for unmarried rights and mixed-race adoption

Sir Nicholas WallThe President of the Family Division, Sir Nicholas Wall, has said that unmarried couples should have rights to a share of property if they split up. Sir Nicholas also said that he supports mixed-race adoptions which he believes are preferable to leaving children in care homes.

Speaking to Frances Gibb of The Times, Sir Nicholas said: "I am in favour of cohabitees having rights because of the injustice of the present situation"  

Sir Nicholas added: "Marriage undoubtedly remains the most stable relationship for bringing up children and for support."

There are currently over two million cohabiting couples in the UK. By 2021, this number is expected to rise to nearly 3 million couples.

"Women cohabitees, in particular, are severely disadvantaged by being unable to claim maintenance and having their property rights determined by the conventional laws of trusts," Sir Nicholas said.

In 2007 the Law Commission recommended the introduction of a new scheme of financial remedies which would not apply to all cohabitants and where it did apply would only give rise to remedies relating to contributions made to the relationship.

In March 2008, the previous Labour Government responded to the Law Commission's report by announcing that it would be taking no further action on the recommendations, choosing to wait until the research findings from the implementation of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006, which came into effect in 2007.

Following recent calls by children's charities to reform adoption laws, Sir Nicholas Wall told The Times that although it was right that local authorities prioritise placing children with adoptive parents of the same culture and race, a child should not remain in a care home because of this.

"One tries to place a child as appropriately as possible, racially and culturally, but if one cannot the interests of the child may require the child to be placed in a family that is not of the same religion or race. It does happen."

He added: "The evidence seems to be that adoptive placements are more secure than adoptive places, so I would [support them]."

In the interview, Sir Nicholas further said that he believes that judges need to prioritise children's cases above all other family law proceedings, especially judicial decisions on placement in care for adoption. He also said that he thinks that local authorities should intervene early in cases of child protection.

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