This House of Lords Library briefing provides information in support of the House of Lords consideration of the Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill [HL] on Friday 27 January 2017.
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The Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill [HL] is a private member’s bill introduced by Baroness Deech (Crossbench). The Bill received its first reading in the House of Lords on 26 May 2016, and is scheduled to receive its second reading on 27 January 2017. The Bill proposes to replace section 25(2) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 with “provisions about the principles to be applied in determining applications for such orders, including provision about the effect of pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements”. Setting out the purpose of the Bill, Baroness Deech explained:
The purpose of this Bill is to reform the law relating to the splitting of assets on divorce. The current law is the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, section 25, which has not been thoroughly debated by Parliament for 40 years despite radical changes in society and families, and which has been the subject of calls for reform from the Law Commission, Resolution and the Centre for Social Justice. Reform is urgent because the law is uncertain. It is largely judge-made law, which bears little resemblance to the statute. Judicial discretion has led to unpredictability and conflicting decisions, which make it hard for parties to negotiate and lead to disproportionate costs. Legal aid has been removed and parties of modest means are left unrepresented with little guidance as to the right outcome. The Bill would implement provisions very similar to those of Scottish law, and the laws of most European and North American states. It would introduce as a fair starting point the equal division of all the property and pensions acquired by the couple after marriage; provision for short term maintenance; flexibility to allow the home to be retained for the carer and children; and binding prenuptial agreements. This is intended to facilitate mediation, reduce litigation and costs, and recognise equal partnership in marriage.