Changes to family law

Year Published: 2014

Having had its first reading earlier in the year, The Divorce (Financial Provisions) Bill introduced by Lady Deech received its second reading in the House of Lords last week. The bill seeks to reform the law relating to financial provisions on divorce amending The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 with many peers speaking positively about the reforms proposed by the bill.

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 is considered by many as now being out of touch with the times. Cases decided over the last 30 years are there to support the interpretation of the Act but the question being asked by Lady Deech is ‘how can people interpret the Act without legal advice?’

Lady Deech calls for a more simplistic approach. She wants cases to be looked at more on a 50/50 basis, assets acquired before the marriage to be taken out of the matrimonial pot and for spousal maintenance to be severely limited. There was reference to a period of three years, but is this fair?

As anybody who has gone through a divorce will know, their case will be different to any other. It is difficult to provide a simplistic formula to be followed in every case. Each case needs to be looked at on its own facts. Would it be fair for a wife who has put her life and career on hold to receive no maintenance after a 30 year marriage or to only receive maintenance for a period of three years? Surely a husband’s far greater earning capacity in such a case would have to be taken into account?

The other suggestion is that both post-nuptial and pre-nuptial agreements are to become binding. Lady Deech tells horror stories of agreements being entered and then there being expensive litigation as to the validity of such agreements. Agreements becoming legal would take away such uncertainty, provided that certain conditions are met.

The bill is in its very early stages and it is likely to take several years for any significant changes to the law.

If you would like further information or advice on The Divorce Bill or any other family matters, please contact our Family team on 0161 475 7676.

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