A private members’ bill which would reform financial provision on divorce is set for a second reading on June 27.
The Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill was tabled by lawyer, academic and crossbench peer Baroness Deech earlier this year. It would ,she said, make financial settlements on divorce “simpler, more certain and democratic”.
Baroness Deech claims the existing law on financial settlements is in need for revision by parliament. Current regulations are uncertain, she says, with their emphasis having shifted from the needs of each party to equality, a number of other considerations also now complicating the legal situation.
In addition, a preponderance of “big money” cases has led to judgements that have little relevance to lower income marriages, and these have meant the law is now largely “judge-made”, diverging from statute. The discretion available to individual judges has led to uncertainty and discouraged mediation and out-of-court settlements, the peer claims.
Baroness Deech also highlights the removal of legal aid from most family law cases and the resulting surge in unrepresented litigants in person, who have few settled legal principles to guide them on the issue of dividing assets after divorce.
England and Wales are unusual in having complex and defined legal regulations, the peer claims, and this attracts divorcing spouses from abroad who hope to achieve more generous settlements than they would receive in their home countries.
If passed into law, the Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill would make both prenuptial and postnuptial agreements legally binding. The former would require independent legal advice for both parties, full disclosure of each person’s financial situation and completion a minimum of three weeks before the marriage. Postnuptial agreements, meanwhile, would help divorcing couples to come to their own arrangements regarding asset division on divorce.
Read the text of the bill here.
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