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Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 | 50th anniversary review

Following the introduction of ‘no-fault divorce’ in April 2022, The Law Commission of England and Wales has launched a review of the laws which determine how finances are divided among couples after divorce.

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 sets out the law on divorce and the division of assets when a marriage ends.  It’s been 50 years since the Act was first introduced and society has changed significantly since then.  The review by the Law Commission is therefore a welcome opportunity to modernise the legislation and ensure it reflects the realities of modern-day relationships.

Currently, the courts take into account factors such as the length of the marriage, the age and health of the parties, their financial resources and the contributions they have made to the marriage.  Judges use their discretion to reach fair decisions however, with no clear definition or guidance as to what constitutes a fair division of assets, there can be uncertainty and time-consuming litigation which can have a negative impact on any children involved.

In its review, the Commission will carry out a detailed analysis of the current laws on financial remedies to see whether the law is working effectively and whether it delivers fair and consistent outcomes for divorcing couples.  Financial remedy orders are the orders a Court can make following divorce/dissolution of a civil partnership. These set out the specific terms ordered as to the sale or transfer of property, division of savings, maintenance (for spouses/civil partners and children) and the sharing of pensions. 

In addition to assessing the effectiveness of the current discretionary approach, the Law Commission will consider scope for reform in other areas that often cause disputes or can be overlooked which include: 

  • Whether a clear set of principles, to give more certainty to separating couples, should be enshrined in law. In addition, a review of the factors Judges must consider when deciding which, if any, financial remedy orders to make.
  • Whether there should be wider powers given to the Courts to make orders for children over the age of eighteen.
  • How maintenance payments for an ex-spouse or civil partner should work.
  • What consideration the courts should give to the behaviour of separating parties when making financial remedy orders.
  • Orders relating to pensions and whether they are overlooked when dividing the divorcing parties’ assets.

The Law Commission has started preliminary work on this project which will consider the financial orders made by courts in England and Wales as well as the law in other countries with the aim of publishing a scoping paper in September 2024.  This could then provide the basis for a full review and future financial remedies reform.

If you have any questions about the current law on divorce and the division of assets, please call our family solicitor, Carline Gayle-Buckle to discuss your situation on 01926 354704.

Carline Gayle-Buckle | Family Solicitor

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