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Update on Law Commission family law proposals

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Extracted from Ministry of Justice annual report

  • The Lord Chancellor has published her annual report on the implementation of Law Commission proposals. The Lord Chancellor is under a duty to publish the report to Parliament under Section 3A of the Law Commissions Act 1965, as amended by section 1 of the Law Commission Act 2009.

    The extracts below set out the Government's view on the currently outstanding family law related projects. The paragraph numbers are those in the original document.

    Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements

    48. The Law Commission published its final report on Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements in February 2014. The report makes recommendations to clarify the law of financial needs on divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership which would ensure that the law is applied consistently by the courts and reinforces judicial best practice. In addition, it investigates whether an aid to calculation of spousal support could be devised. Finally, it recommends the introduction of qualifying nuptial agreements in England and Wales which would be enforceable contracts, with a number of related provisions and safeguards, enabling couples to make binding arrangements for the financial consequences of divorce or dissolution. 

    49. The Government has accepted and taken action on the two main proposals in the report which do not require legislative reform. First, the Family Justice Council has developed and recently introduced financial guidance for separating couples and unrepresented litigants. Second, the Ministry of Justice is working to develop an online tool supported by formulae to assist separating couples and help provide confidence in making private financial arrangements on divorce. Officials will work with practitioners to develop and refine this tool, which will be part of wider work to support and incentivise separating and separated couples to make their own arrangements wherever possible. 

    50. The government is considering the Law Commission's recommendation on qualifying nuptial agreements as part of a wider consideration of private family law reforms and will respond in due course.

    Property Rights for Cohabitants

    56. The Law Commission published its report Cohabitation: the Financial Consequences of Relationship Breakdown in July 2007. This report recommended the creation of a statutory scheme giving property rights to qualifying cohabiting partners against each other on relationship breakdown. The Law Commission's report Intestacy and Family Provision Claims on Death, published in December 2011, also included recommendations relating to cohabiting partners. In particular, that report recommended giving qualifying cohabitants the same entitlement as a spouse or civil partner on intestacy and giving cohabiting partners more rights under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

    Marriage Law

    40. The previous Government consulted on whether the law should be changed to allow non-religious belief organisations, including humanists, to conduct legal marriages. They concluded that there were broader implications for marriage law and asked the Law Commission whether it would conduct a review of the law on marriage ceremonies. The Law Commission undertook a preliminary scoping study and reported in December. The Government is carefully considering the report and will respond in due course.

    The full report can be found on the Ministry of Justice site here.


Published: 12/01/2017

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