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The Divorce Process: Private Member’s Bill Aims To Simplify Divorce

The Divorce Process: Private Member’s Bill Aims To Simplify Divorce

A private member’s bill, The Divorce (Financial Provisions) Bill, introduced by Lady Deech, received its second reading in the House of Lords last week. The bill amends the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 with a provision to make pre- and post-nuptial agreements binding as well as sharing the net value of matrimonial property equally between the parties and limit to three years the length of maintenance payments.

Lady Deech said the removal of legal aid for most family cases makes the bill ‘urgent’, as ‘hundreds of thousands’ of litigants in person are presenting at court with no clear law and structure to guide them.

“Big money” cases do not represent true picture

The leading judgments in the field arise from ‘big money’ cases that are not necessarily helpful for low-income families, added Lady Deech. “These highly visible divorce cases that make the newspapers don’t do anything for women who work for a living,” Lady Deech expanded. “What we see is women who have never done much, never put their hands in cold water, getting big payouts. That does not inspire young women to make a living.”

Peers including the former Lord Chancellor Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the former deputy president of the Supreme Court, Lord Hope of Craighead, and broadcaster Lady Bakewell spoke in support of the bill.

Concerns over bill expressed

Former justice minister Lord McNally gave ‘qualified’ support to the bill, but said the government is currently considering its response to the Law Commission’s proposals in this area.

The Commission has argued that pre-nuptial agreements should be legally binding in divorce settlements, but only after the needs of the separating couple and any children have been taken into account.

It also recommends that at the time of signing both parties must disclose material information about their financial situation and have received legal advice.

Justice minister Lord Faulks expressed concerns on behalf of the government with some aspects of the bill. The current law on financial provision on divorce, he said, provides a number of important safeguards. Section 25 of the MCA states that the first consideration is the welfare of any child of the family. This section would be repealed by Deech’s bill. Faulks said the bill may therefore weaken the protection given to children when their parents divorce.

He said the provision to divide property equally may be ‘potentially unfair and could cause hardship’, particularly for poorer families with children and the three-year limit for maintenance may also cause hardship and be ‘inappropriate for many couples’.

The bill will now be considered by the committee of the whole house.

We do everything in our power to make the separation and divorce process as painless as possible. Our divorce and family lawyers in the South Buckinghamshire area provide you with a full range of family law services in complete confidence.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of family law, are considering divorce proceedings, or a trial separation, or want to draw up a pre or post-nuptial agreement, call us in absolute confidence on 03456 381381. Alternatively, email us at familylaw@ibblaw.co.uk.