Speech by The Hon Mr Justice MacDonald: Family Law – Past and Future


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It is a great honour to give the keynote address at this event, and all the more so on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Four Jurisdictions Family Law Conference. I must also confess to some trepidation in speaking to such an esteemed audience, although I suppose it is better to fall into Mark Twain’s first category of public speakers, the nervous, than his second, the liars.

Anniversaries are apt to cause reflection. Reflection on the years that have passed, and reflection on what may come to pass as the years continue to roll on. Within that context, and having regard to the theme of the conference, “Twenty Five Years of Family Law”, it seemed appropriate on this anniversary to reflect on the past twenty five years of family law and to peer through a glass darkly in an attempt to perceive what challenges the next twenty five years may hold, and how we may begin to think about addressing them.

This year also marks another, somewhat less auspicious, silver jubilee. Namely the twenty-fifth anniversary of my call to the Bar of England and Wales in October 1995. I have spent the vast majority of that quarter century dealing with cases concerning children. Whilst I now also deal with financial remedies cases and cases in the Court of Protection, I hope you will forgive me if this address concentrates on the law concerning children.