President of the Supreme Court Lady Hale gave a speech on July 1 which looked at modern families and the changing nature of child law in Britain.

Lady Hale made the speech, entitled, “What is a 21st Century Family?” at the International Centre for Family Law, Policy and Practice, a not for profit company set up to share and develop research on areas of family and child law.

Hale is a patron of the company, and Professor Marilyn Freeman and Dr France Burton are co-directors.

The speech offers a comprehensive history of marriage and the ways in which family as a concept has changed over time, including the use of surrogacy within a family setting.

In summary, Lady Hale highlights three things that she believes stand out from the developments of the last 50 years:

• A growing desire and respect for individual autonomy in adult decision-making, by men and women

• Children’s best interests increasingly seen as paramount

• A tension between adults wanting their individual autonomy and honouring the best interests of their children, where the two needs conflict.

Before Lady Hale took up her position as President of the Supreme Court, she worked extensively in the family courts and is perhaps best known as the architect of the Children Act 1989.

You can read the speech here.