New financial guidelines for separating couples

The government has announced that separating couples are to be given clear new guidelines setting out what they should expect when property and income is distributed by the courts and to clarify the law of “financial needs” on divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership.

A Law Commission report found that there was confusion about how one person should be required to meet the other’s financial needs after their relationship has ended. Although a main factor to be considered in cases is the ‘needs’ of each party, it was found that 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 new guidance will be published later in the year and 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, and
  • Mediators – so they will be able to give financial advice to help separating couples settle disputes out of court.

The Law Commission’s report put forward three main recommendations:

  • written guidance to define and explain financial need;
  • an assessment of the feasibility of producing numerical guidance to calculate the likely financial outcome of divorce or dissolution; and
  • making qualifying nuptial agreements statutorily binding through amendments to the Matrimonial Causes Act 1975.

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