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6 February 2012
The Law Commission is to conduct a targeted review of two aspects of the law that entitles married couples and civil partners to claim financial provision from one another on divorce or dissolution of their partnership.
The Commission will examine the extent to which one party should be required to meet the other's needs after the relationship has ended. It will also consider how what is known as “non-matrimonial property” (acquired by either party prior to the marriage or civil partnership, or received by gift or inheritance) should be treated on divorce or dissolution.
The Commission will not, however, be conducting a full-scale review of the law of financial orders. Rather, the aim is to bring clarity and predictability to two areas of that law that cause particular difficulties.
The scope and timetable of the Law Commission's ongoing project on Marital Property Agreements will be extended to accommodate this additional work. A supplementary consultation paper dealing with these issues will be published later this year and a final report during 2013. Professor Elizabeth Cooke, the Law Commissioner with responsibility for family law, said:
“We are delighted that the Ministry of Justice has asked us to undertake this very important review. When two people bring their marriage or civil partnership to an end it is vital that the law assists them to resolve their financial arrangements as quickly and fairly as possible. The current law creates too much potential for uncertainty and for inconsistent outcomes. In particular, the extent to which one party should be required to meet the other's financial needs is far from clear. Likewise, there is uncertainty over the treatment of property brought into the relationship or inherited by one of the parties.
“This work will complement our current project on marital property agreements, in which we are considering whether a couple should be able to make a legally binding agreement before or during their marriage or civil partnership about the financial arrangements they will make if the relationship fails.
"The project will raise technical legal questions that the Law Commission is well-placed to address. But any reform of the law must also be informed by wide-scale consultation with the legal profession and those in the wider public who are affected by the deficiencies in the current system. We therefore aim to publish a detailed consultation paper later this year and a final Report during 2013.”