Divorce law should be clarified, says Commission


The Law Commission, which recommends legal reforms in England and Wales, claims that a lack of clarity is adversely affecting couples seeking divorce.

Family Law Solicitors

Law commissioners believe that couples and judges alike would benefit from clearer details of their financial aims and that the law should be changed to better reflect cash settlement objectives.

Claiming the current lack of clarity can worsen couples' anguish at an already trying time, the Law Commission asserts that there is confusion over compensation awarded for sacrifices made in a relationship.

The Law Commission's project head, Prof Elizabeth Cooke, believes the current legislation is hard to explain. "It would be far clearer if the law was to state what is to be achieved," Prof Cooke said.

The commission is looking at whether the Canadian system of formulating financial settlements could be adopted in the UK. However, Prof Cooke said the idea of limiting the time in which divorcees receive financial support is being approached with "great caution" and that it could create "unwarranted hardship".

In Scotland, 3 years is the preferred limit for financial support in divorce cases.

Calling for anything to be considered that could help ease divorce, the relationship charity Relate warned that disputes often escalate before even reaching court.

"If individuals are at the point of fighting over assets, significant emotional damage may already have taken place," Relate's chief executive Ruth Sutherland said. "People should be encouraged to seek help long before they end up in court."

The Law Commission is also considering what should become of property owned by 1 or other partner prior to starting a relationship. The issue was flagged for reform in November 2011, when the Supreme Court ruled that a man who had left his partner 20 years before could not be entitled to 50% of the value of the Essex bungalow shared by the couple.

Leonard Kernott was instead told he would receive 10% of the property's value, due to the fact that his ex-partner Patricia Jones had paid the mortgage on her own for 13 years.

A public consultation on the divorce law issues is due to end in December. When the Law Commission publishes its report in 2013, it is likely to recommend more research before any adjustments can be made to the current law.

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