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Reforms in divorce would see assets being divided according to a divorce formula

Date: (11 September 2012)    |    

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Legal reformers have suggested a ‘divorce formula’ which would decide how to split assets between splitting couples.
The proposal have been put forward by the Law Commission which would end the long standing presumption that former spouses share the proceeds of their marriage equally.
But the new proposals would mean a divorcing individual could be allowed to retain all the property and cash that they owned before their marriage.
The reforms are seen as reducing the bitterness between the warring couples and the huge amounts of money wasted on lawyers and court hearings. But some critics say they could cut the amount a divorced woman might expect to get from her husband.
The Law Commissioner in charge of reforming divorce law, Professor Elizabeth Cooke, said the organisation was ‘looking at the boundaries of the sharing principle’ and considering what a couple might not share when they break up.
She added that these were technically difficult and very emotional questions because they were important to people at an extremely difficult times of their lives. Most people who have to deal with these questions in practice agree that the current law was inadequate.
Professor Cooke said that a divorce or civil partnership break-up was a miserable experience for the couple and their children. The law could make that misery worse if it was not fair, clear and accessible, by contributing to acrimony and wasted costs.
It would be far clearer if the law was to state what is to be achieved. Was it trying to compensate people for the loss of earning capacity due to marriage for example or was it trying to move away from what might have been and to think the time it would take the affected individual to achieve independence. The question, of how long the law would be providing incentive to achieve that independence trying to encourage people to get on with their lives.
The recommendation has followed after the Commission has already run a consultation deal about prenuptials, documents drawn up by a couple in advance of their wedding which set out how their assets were to be divided in the event of divorce.
Two new consultations will now cover how far a husband or wife should cover the needs of their former spouse after divorce, and what happens to assets that one party had before the marriage. The Law Commission will produce a set of recommendations on new laws for the Government next year.
The attempt to draw up a new divorce settlement law follows a number of key court decisions. In 2010, the Supreme Court allowed German heiress Katrin Radmacher to keep the greatest share of her £100million fortune according to an agreement drawn up with her husband before their marriage. The ruling effectively gave prenuptials legal force in British divorce law.