Financial settlements and divorce – ‘hopelessly out of date’ laws to be reviewed
A long overdue review of the current laws dealing with financial settlements when a couple divorce or end a civil partnership has been ordered by the government.
The Law Commission will report back in September 2024 after a detailed analysis of the law as it stands and explain how it might be improved, made fairer and more consistent by further review and reform.
‘About time too’, some may be tempted to say. Baroness Fiona Shackleton, a leading family lawyer, has described the 50-year-old Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 as ‘hopelessly out of date’ in a social landscape which has since changed beyond all recognition.
What are financial remedy and financial provision orders for?
Financial remedy orders set out how a couple will split their finances and assets and are legally binding.
These orders are governed by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and mirrored in the Civil Partnership Act 2004.
They affect many thousands of couples every year and can include the sale and transfer of property, maintenance for spouses, civil partners and children as well as the splitting of pensions.
What’s wrong with the current law on finances on divorce and the end of a civil partnership?
Critics of the 1973 Act say the main drawback is uncertainty – the broad rules contained in its legislation give judges a huge amount of discretion when it comes to interpretation. As a result, outcomes vary from judge to judge and city to city.
Issues of fairness and consistency are also cited as problematic with the current potentially outdated framework often targeted for blame.
What will the review look at?
The Law Commission will look at whether reform is needed in areas including:
- The discretionary powers given to judges over the division of financial assets and whether there is a call for a clear set of principles, enshrined in law, to give couples more certainty.
- Whether family courts should have wider powers to make orders for children over 18.
- How maintenance payments for an ex-spouse or civil partner should work.
- Whether the behaviour of separating couples should be taken into account when making financial remedy orders.
- Whether pensions are overlooked when dividing the financial assets of a divorcing couple.
- The structure of the system for making regular financial payments from one person to another.
- The factors that judges have to consider when making financial orders in court proceedings or when approving agreed orders.
Get in touch
The law relating to financial provision on divorce affects people at one of the most difficult times in their lives and has far reaching effects for families including into retirement.
The team at Wards Solicitors are here to help. We have seven family and divorce law legal specialists and 12 offices across Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset and North Somerset.
Our Family Law page here has further information on divorce and frequently asked questions.