Divorce proceedings can be complex and emotionally draining, but potential changes to family law may bring further uncertainty when it comes to the financial outcome, according to Head of the Family team at SAS Daniels LLP.
The Divorce (Financial Provisions) Bill, first introduced by Baroness Deech in February, recently received its second reading in the House of Lords.
Baroness Deech believes that it is urgent for Parliament to revisit the law governing financial provision, based on the notion that the law is uncertain and that leading judgments arise from ‘big money’ cases that go to appeal but bear no relation to low income families. Legal aid no longer applies to this area of the law so many people are left unrepresented without a legal steer.
This brings a lack of clarity when it comes to interpretation of the existing Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, which is considered by many to be out of touch.
Commenting on the issue, the head of the Family team said: “While Baroness Deech’s call for a more simplistic approach may seem entirely called for in principle, the reality may not be welcomed by many. The Bill looks to examine cases on a 50/50 basis, suggesting that assets acquired before marriage should be taken out of the matrimonial pot. In addition, it recommends the duration of spousal maintenance should be limited to three years.
“As anyone who has experienced a divorce will know all too well, there is no ‘textbook’ case and it may not be feasible to apply a ‘one size fits all’ simplistic formula. A husband or wife may have put their career on hold only to find that, after a 30 year marriage, they will only receive maintenance for three years. Surely a spouse’s greater earning capacity would have to be taken into account?”
Another key factor of the Bill is the suggestion that both pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements are to become binding. This, Baroness Deech argues, would eradicate the horror stories of agreements that are entered into and subsequent costly litigation examining the validity of those agreements.
the head of team added: “This would remove the grey area around pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements, provided that certain conditions are met. While the Bill is still in its early stages, it’s important that people are aware of the implications and that their eyes are wide open when it comes to the potential financial sting in the tail.”
For any further information about The Divorce Bill or any other family matters, please contact a member of the Family team at SAS Daniels LLP on 01625 442100.