The last major reforms in UK divorce law took place almost 50 years ago, with the passing of the Matrimonial causes Act 1973. The slow pace of reform in the matrimonial sector has long been bemoaned by family solicitors, who are generally quick to point out that whilst divorce law has barely changed in the last 50 years, societal attitudes towards marriage and relationships have transformed completely.
Family law has made headlines in recent months, with the government confirming that “no fault divorce” is going to be introduced, which means that divorcing couples will no longer need to apportion blame in order to obtain a divorce.
This week, a leading judge (Lady Hale, who is president of the Supreme Court) has used her platform in order to criticise further proposed changes to divorce law, in the form of a bill proposed by Baroness Deech, which has now passed 3 readings in the Lords and is currently awaiting its second reading in the House of Commons.
Pre and post nuptial agreements to become binding?
Baroness Deech’s “Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill” proposes that there should be significant and extensive changes to the current laws which govern divorce. Under the Bill, pre nuptial agreements and post nuptial agreements would become binding under English law.
Spouse maintenance to be time limited?
The Bill would also introduce a general time limit on spousal maintenance, which would be capped to a period of 5 years only, as well as a rule which provides that matrimonial property would be split down the middle between the parties (except in circumstances which would leave a party destitute).
Lady Hale has called the proposed changes “threatening” to the family, and has questioned whether this “one size fits all” approach is in the interests of justice, and whether it would risk unfairly prejudicing a spouse who might find themselves in a financially weaker position at the point of divorce.
Baroness Hale has long been a critic of Baroness Deech’s bill, and she has come under criticism herself for her outspokenness on the issue, with some pointing out that it is contrary to the rule of law for someone in a judicial position to involve themselves in live parliamentary matters.
For more information or for advice on how the current law could affect you and your finances on divorce, please contact Sarah Mortimer.