Suggested matrimonial law simplification could prove costly

The House of Lords has recently heard a private members’ bill which seeks to simplify the process of divorce.

The proposed changes could harm more families than they help however, according to family law specialists at Lancashire based Linder Myers Solicitors.

The bill, proposed in response to the removal of legal aid for divorcing couples last year, includes changes which may see the net value of a matrimonial property being equally divided between parties and placing a three year limitation on maintenance payments.

Sarah McCarthy, family specialist at Linder Myer Solicitors in Lancashire said: “It is highly likely that the proposed changes will be met with significant opposition as the low income families the bill seeks to protect will be the very same families who will end up suffering as a result. Each and every divorce has its own unique set of circumstances. Splitting couples who have children for example, require specific consideration to bring the matter to a fair conclusion for both parties and more importantly, with the long-term welfare of the children in mind.

“The suggestion to divide the matrimonial home equally cannot work in reality. During many divorces, couples often agree that the children will reside with one party so it cannot be fair that the individual who will not be the residential parent will have an equal share of the matrimonial home. If this amendment is approved, it may force many into a corner where selling the home, with no prospect of purchasing a suitable alternative, becoming a grim reality.

“Placing a three year limitation on maintenance payments being made by one party to another post-divorce will also prove largely unfair and will place many in significant financial hardship. This will particularly impact women who may have been unable to continue working in order to raise the couple’s children during the marriage and who will continue being the main carer post divorce.” The Divorce (Financial Provisions) Bill will now be considered by the committee of the whole House of Lords and also includes provisions to make pre and post nuptial agreements legally binding.