Help people understand how their divorce will affect their future finances
The removal of legal aid has led to a rise in unrepresented litigants, with over 50,000 people representing themselves in family disputes in 2013.
Divorce law relating to finances is complex and difficult to understand. Outcomes can be difficult to predict, even for legal professionals. Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, which determines how money is divided up on divorce, has fundamentally remained unchanged for the last 40 years. The concern is that people separate with little or no understanding of the financial consequences of their break up, making it more difficult for them to reach agreement and placing a greater burden on the court system.
With the average median household income at £32,600, most people do not have huge resources to divide on separation. The complexity of current law affects ordinary people, living in ordinary circumstances. Reform is needed to make sure they are fairly provided for after they separate.
Resolution calls for clear guidance for people entering the court system, so that they are more aware of the potential outcomes and consequences, and for a wide-ranging reform of the financial provision system to achieve more clarity.
The reforms to Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 that Resolution wants to see emphasise independence and greater certainty on the level and timescale for payment of maintenance, with children’s interests at their heart.
Enforceable agreements (commonly known as ‘pre-nups’) should be permitted with suitable safeguards. This would provide certainty to people entering the courts that a previously-made agreement will generally be binding, unless it does not satisfy clearly identified criteria. The independent Law Commission has also called for change in this area.
Clear guidelines are needed on the division of capital resources and pensions. Resolution proposes a distinction between matrimonial property and non-matrimonial property in cases where resources exceed the needs of the separating couple.