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Law Commission delays report on matrimonial property

The Law Commission has delayed publication of its long-awaited report into matrimonial property law.

The Law Commission is a statutory independent body set up to review existing legislation. It originally set out to examine existing laws on the distribution of marital property following divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership in 2009, and published a consultation paper in 2011. It said:

“Relationship breakdown remains a significant phenomenon, and financial and property disputes between separating spouses or civil partners often lead to distress and expense. Many couples resolve the financial consequences of divorce or dissolution without going to court. But where this is not possible, the courts have a very broad discretion to redistribute the parties’ property and income.”

The ‘Marital Property Agreements’ project was then extended to examine two particular aspects of the law in detail – ‘needs’ and ‘non-matrimonial property’.

The term ‘needs’ refers to parties financial needs following the end of a marriage or civil partnership. The Commission admits that:

“The meaning of “needs” in this context has generated uncertainty and there is confusion about the extent to which one spouse should be required to meet the other’s needs after their formal relationship has come to an end.”

‘Non-matrimonial property, meanwhile, refers to property acquired by either party before the marriage or civil partnership, or received via an inheritance or gift at any point.

“We are considering the way that such property should be treated on divorce or dissolution.”

The initiative, now called the ‘Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements’ project,  published a second consultation paper in September last year and had planned to publish its final recommendations in the autumn of this year, but it has now put back publication until later this year or early next. The delay was due, it said, to “staff movements and because of other priorities being conducted by the team.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Andrew says:

    The Commission has apparently ruled out recognising pre-nups without a “needs” exception. I can see why the needs of children should prevail during minority – postponing putting the pre-nup into effect until the youngest reaches adulthood – but apart from that it appears to make pre-nups pointless. The idea is to promote certainly and agreement and avoid litigation – not to dress the litigation up under a different name.

  2. Luke says:

    I agree Andrew – they seem desperate to hang on to the power to dictate to the general public what they can and cannot decide for themselves.

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