5 Family Law Myths in the Media

This article on ‘Family Law Myths’ was written by Byron James, Barrister at Expatriate Law. It was first published in the Transparency Project.


Some quarters of the press have behaved so badly recently that passengers are no longer able to buy their wares on Virgin West Coast trains. Unfortunately, the rest of us have to put up with them.

Putting up with’ the media is painful for many family lawyers, both as they regularly see the cases they have meticulously argued reduced to a silly tabloid headline (for example : Vegetarian mother refused to let her son, five, see his father for a year in case he fed him meat), and as they constantly have to debunk the myths and misapprehensions perpetuated by the media, when advising their own clients and dealing with litigants in person.

The suggestion that one can become married through common law (i.e. just by spending a really long time living with someone) has become a standard bearer for such family law fake news, but there are in fact many other examples regularly peddled by the English press. These stories are published time and time again irrespective of their lack of accuracy and in turn feed the many public misconceptions regarding family law.

Below are some of the more common myths. It is sincerely hoped one day that facts may triumph over sensationalism when it comes to family law reporting.

  • “Quickie divorce” is a thing

The tabloid press will regularly refer to a certain celebrity ‘requesting’ or ‘being granted’ a ‘quickie divorce’ (see here and here).

Despite the outrageous injustice of celebrities being treated just like the rest of the us, there is no special accelerated divorce procedure which can be requested or granted. The process for divorce is set out in Part 7 of FPR 2010 and applies to all parties irrespective of their public profile. The timeframe is detailed there and few family lawyers would suggest there is anything ‘quickie’ about it.

There is an accelerated financial remedy process contained within Chapter 5, Part 9, FPR 2010 for applications such as the variation of maintenance or under Schedule 1, Children Act 1989. Contrary to this divorce myth however, one doesn’t request this ‘quickie’ procedure, it simply applies unless one asks for the longer Chapter 4 procedure to apply in accordance with Chapter 5, Part 9.18A, FPR 2010.

Whilst the headline: “[insert celebrity] requests longer Chapter 4 procedure to be applicable rather than expedited Chapter 5 procedure in relation to Schedule 1 proceedings” is undeniably less sexy, and therefore seldom used, it is at least more accurate and stands as the only time that a party can make a request for a procedure with a different timeframe to be applicable.


Read the full article by Byron James published in the Transparency Project: