Law Commission highlights 'flaws' in divorce laws

The Law Commission has highlighted what it says are fundamental flaws in the family courts system.

According to the Law Commission, divorce laws in England and Wales are “incomplete and uninformative” with the result that judges receive insufficient guidance about how to divide a couple’s property fairly.

The organisation warns that judges do not receive proper guidance on whether to divide a couple’s assets equally or according to each partner’s needs, and that no rules have been put in place to help judges decide how to divide belongings accumulated before the marriage.

In addition there is no legal definition of what constitutes the financial needs of a spouse and lack of clarity regarding the extent to which divorcees must continue to support one another.

The Law Commission is soon to launch a consultation on the necessary reforms required to improve the outdated regulations. Professor Elizabeth Cooke, the law commissioner leading the review said: “When two people bring their marriage or civil partnership to an end it is vital that the law is able to help them resolve their financial arrangements as quickly and as fairly as possible. The current law creates too much potential for uncertainty and inconsistency.”

Highly critical of the flaws in the current legal framework, it states: “There are detailed statutory provisions about the orders that the court can make in these circumstances but the statute does not say what the court is to achieve by making these orders.

“The judge in the family court has been compared to a bus driver who has been told how to drive the bus and told that he must drive it, but has not been told where to go, nor why he is to go there.

“Couples who do not go to court have to make their own financial arrangements by agreement. In doing so they need to know what their rights and obligations are, and the fact that the law is incomplete and uninformative does not help them.”

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