The Family Justice Council has now published two guides – one for the judiciary and one for litigants in person – on the issue of sorting out finances on divorce following the Law Commission’s recommendations in 2014.
In February 2014 the Law Commission examined the law relating to financial needs on divorce with the aim of making it clearer and more accessible. The Law Commission’s report entitled “Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements” can be found here and my predecessor’s blog about it, here. The Law Commission’s report highlighted regional differences in the level of needs-based financial support awarded in different courts and a lack of transparency, and recommended publication of guidance clarifying the meaning of financial needs. The Law Commission suggested there could be two versions of the guidance: one version addressed to lawyers, and a shorter, less technical version addressed to litigants in person and non-legally qualified mediators.
Two years later, following the Law Commission’s recommendation, the Family Justice Council (FJC) has provided guidance for the judiciary entitled “Guidance on Financial Needs on Divorce” and dated June 2016, which can be found here. It includes information on statutory provisions and case law examples of different types of need, and highlights key principles about the duration of provision to meet income needs and the transition to independence. The guidance includes worked examples, annotated to include references to the case law authorities relied on in formulating the possible outcomes set out.
It compliments earlier FJC guidance for litigants in person entitled “Sorting out Finances on Divorce” and dated April 2016, which can be found here.
It is important to note that the guides are not designed to address the principles of compensation or sharing which are applicable in cases where the available assets exceed the parties’ needs. However, they go a long way towards demystifying the law in needs-based cases, which it is hoped will assist unrepresented couples to reach amicable agreements and the courts to show greater consistency in outcomes.
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