The Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill set to change the UK divorce landscape

Published: 20th June 2018

The House of Lords passed the Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill through its second reading in January 2017, and although as of yet there is no set date for the Committee stage, the Bill is likely to have a significant impact on the divorce landscape in England and Wales. The Bill is considered to be designed to bring laws in England and Wales in line with those in Scotland, following admiration for laws in the North; but what impact will the Bill have on finances in divorce?

The Bill Proposes Law Reforms

If you were to ask people within England and Wales about laws and the justice system, many of them would tell you that they feel there is a significant need for reforms, in order for laws to be up to date with the times and to operate on a level seen in other areas of the UK, such as in Scotland.

This Bill does indeed propose law reforms, with a number of areas focused on. Firstly, and this is almost certainly the biggest proposed reform, it is suggested that spousal maintenance is capped at five years, although it is also said that this would not be applicable to cases where the lack of spousal maintenance would cause serious issues financially.

Another proposed reform relates to nuptial agreements and more specifically putting them on a statutory footing. The reform would mean that they are to be considered as binding if safeguards had been complied with, including independent legal advice. This would mean that cases would be much clearer, and those entering into a second marriage later in life would be able to protect assets for children of a previous marriage.

Finally, matrimonial property is of concern in relation to reforms, with the new Bill recognising a difference between matrimonial and non-matrimonial property, making it clear that matrimonial property would be shared equally between the two parties. It would also mean that the courts have no power to use non-matrimonial assets to support a financially weaker partner and the children, with only matrimonial property accessible.

A Noticeable Difference to the Law

A big change in the bill is noted as the way that matrimonial property is defined, with the change being considered as more in line with Scottish laws. It is currently the case that two people could marry later in life, before separating only a few years later, for one party to then make a claim on something that their former partner was in possession of before their marriage.

Many people consider this to be something that is completely unfair and that represents situations where one member of the couple would lose out significantly, simply because the relationship between the two of them didn’t work out as they both had hoped.Within the Bill, it says:

“‘Matrimonial property means all property and interests in property, including any pension rights, which could be the subject of a pension sharing order or a pension compensation sharing order, belonging to the parties or either of them at the date of the relevant financial order which:

(a) was acquired-

(i) during the marriage; and

(ii) otherwise than by gift, inheritance or succession from a third party; and

(b) does not directly or indirectly represent property acquired by them or
either of them before the marriage.”

It is widely considered that such areas of law require big changes in order to suit society much more than they currently do, as well as to keep up with other countries, particularly where England and Wales are concerned.

Many feel that changes to the law and how certain aspects operate are long overdue, so changes such as this are sure to be welcomed with open arms by members of the public and legal experts alike.

If you are thinking about divorce or separation and are concerned about your financial situation then K J Smith Solicitors can help. Our team of experienced family law professionals have dealt with a wide range of matters from prenuptial agreements and cohabitation agreements to financial settlements on divorce.

For more information or to arrange a free 45-minute consultation, please contact K J Smith Solicitors today on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 020 7070 0330 (London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor), 01256 584000 (Basingstoke) 01483 370100 (Guildford), 01494 629000 (Beaconsfield) or 01235 375500 (Abingdon).

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