More clarity called for in divorce settlements

Published on Tuesday, 11 September 2012 09:27
Posted by Scott Buckler

Following its 2012 consultation on marital property agreements ("pre-nups"), the Law Commission is today opening a supplementary consultation on needs and non-matrimonial property

The review is looking at two specific aspects of the law relating to financial provision on divorce:

to what extent one spouse should be required to meet the other's financial needs, and what exactly is meant by needs; andwhat happens to property that one of the partners owned before the relationship or acquired during the course of it.

Many separating couples resolve their financial arrangements without having to go to court. When they are not able to, the courts have the power to decide how their property and income should be distributed. One of the main factors the courts must consider is each party's needs. But, under the current law, the meaning of needs is unclear and there is confusion about the extent to which one spouse should be required to meet the other's needs, and for how long.

The Commission is also asking what can be done to help the courts deal with non-matrimonial property, that is property that was brought into the marriage or civil partnership by one spouse or acquired by them as a gift or inheritance during the relationship. Under the current law it is far from clear how this property should be distributed when a relationship breaks down.

Professor Elizabeth Cooke, the Law Commissioner leading the project, says: "When two people bring their marriage or civil partnership to an end it is vital that the law is able to help them resolve their financial arrangements as quickly and fairly as possible. The current law creates too much potential for uncertainty and inconsistency. We are seeking consultees' views on a range of short- and long-term reforms, with the aim of bringing as much certainty as possible to this difficult area of law."

The consultation is open until 11 December 2012. The Commission will publish a report in 2013, making recommendations on marital property agreements, needs and non-matrimonial property.

Source: ©Law Commission

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