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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

29 MAY 2007

From our own co-respondents

Sue Jenkinson, PhD graduand and Penny Booth, Reader in Law, Staffordshire University Law School. The co-respondent is a shady character who was drawn into divorce proceedings historically for financial reasons: the cuckolded husband would sue him for damages for seducing his virtuous wife , unless she was proven to be worthless (in which case the husband left with nothing). The co-respondent's role was formalised by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 and a successful divorce almost entirely relied on a co-respondent being present. The issue of damages did not become obsolete until 1970. Despite social change and changes in the law the co-respondent remains a central feature of divorce proceedings where adultery is the ground for the petition, often fuelling acrimony where it would be more helpful to minimise the already difficult conflict and focus on the resolution of financial and family issues. Does the natural desire to attribute fault (and seek revenge) outweigh the common sense approach to concluding divorce proceedings, keeping the co-respondent in the picture at all costs? In light of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and the provision for civil partnerships to be dissolved without a special category of adultery, the specific retention of this ground today for the heterosexual couple requires further thought. For the full article see June [2007] Fam Law.

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