I think it worthy of comment that we are seeing more articles about this bill at present. This is the Bill that was introduced to Parliament over 7 years ago by Baroness Deech, who is not someone who shies away from sharing her thoughts in family law. She is a lady who is passionate about the law and wants equality. Listening to her online biography she would if she could give free childcare to all those children aged between 0-5 to enable their mothers to progress their careers. She herself being grateful for the support she received with childcare at St Anne’s College, Oxford. She is inspirational in her words.
The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 has tried to keep up with our modern family lives and Judges have made adjustments to give judgments on what, they see, as fair and reasonable.
However, much talk in the legal press draws adverse comment to Baroness Deech’s Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill and I am not altogether sure why. So , what impact will the Bill have if passed?
There are three new suggested provisions:-
- Pre Nuptial Agreements: Many people now have these arrangements in place. They set out what will happen if their relationship does not last its course. The bill seeks to introduce that these agreements are to become legally binding provided the parties each seek independent legal advice and are deemed reasonable. Currently, these are only persuasive in nature. It must also be reassured that should circumstances change such as the birth of a child, then this could change the provisions within the Pre-Nuptial Agreement as the interest of children will always prevail.
- Any financial award should be just and reasonable. There are have been some “big money” cases published and London is known as one of the most generous jurisdictions for family finance. Families flock to the capital to have their finances dealt with as a direct result. It would be fair to start in any relationship breakdown at 50/50 regarding the matrimonial finances and home, leaving aside any pre-owned wealth, disability and needs of any dependant child, working then around then circumstances and reasonable permitted changes. Interestingly the draft bill provides for children under the age of 21 which is a higher age than usually considered.
- End of periodical payments for life – so there is a clean break outlook – the bill seeks to put a ceiling on periodical payments of 5 years. Having help for 5 years is not so unreasonable, but that of course depends on whether the other party can still provide finance.
It will be interesting to see what happens next, we will be keeping an eye out for any further moment, as these changes will offer clarity to family solicitors and spouses about how a court will approach their financial division in the future should court proceedings ensue.