No fault divorce campaigner honoured with top accolade for outstanding contribution to family law

Nigel Shepherd, who has campaigned tirelessly for more than three decades for no fault divorce, has been honoured for his outstanding contribution to family law.

Nigel, national head of family law at Mills & Reeve, received the 2019 John Cornwell Award for Outstanding Contribution to Family Law at the Family Law Awards in London on 27 November.

It was a double celebration for Mills & Reeve with Rose-Marie Drury awarded Family Associate Solicitor of the Year. The judges recognised her innovative work helping families navigate the technical legal area of surrogacy and artificial reproductive technology, and her involvement in efforts to reform and update the law.

Nigel’s award is one of the most prestigious accolades in family law. Previous winners include three former Presidents of the Family Division (the senior family judge in the country), the judge who established the ground-breaking Family Drugs and Alcohol Court and John Cornwell himself, the founder of Resolution.

Nigel is probably best known as the “voice of no fault divorce” and reforming this aspect of the law has been a professional and personal mission for most of his career. In June 2019, the government put its plans to remove fault from the divorce process on a legislative footing as then Justice Secretary David Gauke pledged to end unnecessary 'mud-slinging'. The Lord Chancellor said he was proud to introduce the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill to the House of Commons.

The bill was deigned to replace the requirement to evidence conduct or separation 'fact' with the provision of a statement of irretrievable breakdown. The possibility of contesting the decision to divorce would be removed. While recent political events have held up the introduction of the bill, Nigel says he genuinely believes these latest setbacks are only temporary.

Nigel said: “Family law work is enormously rewarding. There’s no other area of law that I’d rather be practising. But it is also challenging. We all need to have a team around us, and I’ve been fortunate and privileged to have had incredible support from so many people over the years.  And not least from my family, whose understanding of my obsession with reform was evident on my birthday last year when I was given a hoodie on which my grandchildren had stencilled #nofaultdivorce!”

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