Published: 17th March 2015
The Law Commission have opened up a consultation from 11th March - 11th July 2015 as they seek opinions on how to reform the enforcement of family financial orders.
The purpose of the consultation is to consider new methods of obtaining information about the debtor, the legislative framework of the current system and rules of the court to see if the process can be improved. They also want to try to better educate the public and to aid litigants in person - who use the court system without legal representation.
Family financial orders are used by the courts to enforce the payment of money or the transfer of property between family members in the event of a divorce or the ending of a civil partnership. If the parties cannot mutually agree on an outcome, a family financial order is then made, with an independent judge given the responsibility of making the decision on how assets and finances should be split. The order not only acts as a record of the agreement, but it also enables enforcement should further issues arise in the future.
Financial orders usually come in the final stages of concluding a separation to ensure that the outcome meets the needs of both parties and any children involved, however further complications can arise if one of the parties refuses to adhere to the order or their circumstances change and they are no longer able to comply.
The current law makes it difficult for family financial orders to be enforced by the courts due to an over-complicated system and outdated legislation that can be very hard for the public to understand - which can also result in further expense as parties fight to get what they are owed, whilst worsening the financial situation for themselves and their children.
The Law Commission hope that their consultation will bring about reforms to current legislation which will make it easier to understand the financial position of the debtor and the reasons why the family financial order hasn't been complied with. It is also hoped that reforms would make it easier for orders to be enforced and to come to an alternative solution if the terms in the order can no longer be met.
The Law Commissioner for property, family and trust law, Professor Elizabeth Cooke said, "The law governing the enforcement of family financial orders is hard to understand and difficult to use."
"When the courts cannot enforce family financial orders, it can lead to real hardship for former partners and children and place a huge burden on the state. We need to understand whether existing mechanisms for enforcement are working as well as they might, what other powers the courts might use to tackle non-payment, and how we can find better solutions for couples when one partner is able to pay but refuses to do so."
More information, including the full consultation paper, is available here. To view the Executive Summary, please click here.
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