Family Orders Set For Reform

Family lawyers have welcomed the opening of a Law Commission consultation to examine the reform of family financial orders.

Such orders instruct one party to make a payment or transfer property to a former spouse or civil partner. They are often made when a separating couple are unable to agree on their financial arrangements.

The court takes into consideration the parties’ living standards and dependent children, although child maintenance payments are agreed separately.

Financial orders can also be made if a separating couple have already organised their financial arrangements, when it can act as a formal record and be used to enforce the agreement if a party later fails to comply.

However, enforcing a financial order in the event of non-compliance can be problematic under the current system. Legislation can be difficult for the courts to navigate and the process sometimes becomes complex and expensive. Families may face difficulties in receiving money as a result.

The Law Commission believes the enforcement of financial orders is often overlooked because they are viewed as an end to proceedings.

It highlights the need for a system that can distinguish between those who won’t pay and those who can’t pay, so that each is treated accordingly.

Elizabeth Gallagher, head of the family department at Macks Solicitors, said: “It is very difficult attempting to justify the process to a client who has spent substantial sums on legal costs to get a piece of paper from the court, which their former partner then refuses to comply with.

“It is even more difficult to explain that asking the court to enforce an order will require more legal work to be undertaken and more costs to be incurred.

“By this stage, many people have exhausted their funds for legal costs and may try to take enforcement action themselves. The current system is complicated, however, and in many ways lacks ‘teeth.’

“New coercive measures proposed by the Law Commission include disqualification from travelling abroad, disqualification from driving and curfew orders.

“Although some cases of non-compliance are because of a genuine inability to bring up the funds, most instances are of individuals who deliberately avoid making payments. As a result, financial hardship can be caused to the party who is supposed to benefit from the order, and to any children they may have. “Any review of the system of enforcement will be welcomed in the legal community, particularly if it will give enforcement methods more ‘clout’ to deter people from wilful non-compliance.”

Ultimately, the Law Commission hopes to find an option that will clarify the existing laws for both the courts and families and make the process more straightforward.

Macks Solicitors have divorce lawyers in Darlington who practice collaborative law. This approach offers a less stressful experience of the divorce process, and aims to resolve clients’ disputes out of court.

If you need legal advice during your separation or divorce, you can contact our team of experienced divorce solicitors in Darlington on 01325 389 800.

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