Work has finally begun on a review of the laws governing finances on divorce – but a consultation on proposed reforms does not appear likely to emerge until 2025 at the earliest.
A year after the government promised a review would be coming 'within a matter of weeks' , the Law Commission today announced that it has begun preliminary work on the project. The commission aims to publish a ‘scoping paper’ in September 2024. Scoping papers are part of the ‘pre-consultation’ phase of a law reform project, which means a consultation on proposed reforms is unlikely to appear until at least 2025.
The commission said today it will explore issues such as the need for a clear set of principles enshrined in law, how maintenance payments for a former spouse or civil partner should work, orders relating to pensions and factors judges must consider when deciding whether to make a financial remedy order.
The commission has previously looked at matrimonial property agreements and other aspects of the financial consequences of divorce and dissolution, and will see if it needs to revisit any issues.
Professor Nicholas Hopkins, law commissioner for property, family and trust law, said: ‘The laws governing financial provision on divorce or the ending of a civil partnership should be as fair and simple as possible, minimising the risk of conflict, uncertainty or financial strain.
‘Fifty years since the current law was put in place, it’s essential that we look at whether it is working effectively for all parties. This is a hugely important area, affecting separating couples and their children at an incredibly stressful time of their lives. It is essential that any reform in this area is very carefully considered.
‘I am therefore pleased that the Law Commission will be undertaking this review, to consider how any reform of this significant area of law could be shaped.’
Justice minister Lord Bellamy said the review will address whether the laws still work in the fairest way to support separating couples and avoid unnecessary conflict when it comes dividing finances. ‘This important step builds on our landmark no-fault divorce reforms which ended the blame game, helping protect families and children from the stress of separation,’ the minister added.
Calls to reform the law have been led in the House of Lords by Baroness Deech (Ruth Deech) - who reintroduced a controversial bill in 2021 to reform the way the courts deal with financial settlements - and high-profile divorce lawyer Baroness Shackleton (Fiona Shackleton).
This article is now closed for comment.