Separating couples are to be given clear new guidelines setting out what they should expect when property and income is distributed by the courts, the Government has announced.
In March 2014 the Law Commission's ‘Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements’ report found there was confusion about how one person should be required to meet the other’s financial needs after their relationship has ended.
When separating couples go through the courts, the court has a wide discretion to decide how their property and income should be distributed. One of the main factors considered is the ‘needs’ of each party. However, under the current law the exact meaning of needs is unclear and there is confusion about the extent to which one spouse should be required to meet the other’s needs and for how long.
The Ministry of Justice has therefore asked the Family Justice Council to take forward the Law Commission’s recommendation to clarify the law of “financial needs” on divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership.
The new guidance will be published later in the year and the Government says it will help:
- Divorcing couples - by dispelling myths about need and help couples to approach the separation process with realistic expectations.
- The Judiciary - by removing the regional variations in the interpretation of ‘financial needs’ as identified by the Law Commission.
- Mediators – so they will be able to give financial advice to help separating couples settle disputes out of court.
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