Peers have given their backing to a law making it easier for divorcing couples to resolve financial issues and make pre-nuptial agreements binding.
The Divorce (Financial Provisions) Bill, introduced by Lady Deech in February, received its second reading in the Lords recently. It amends the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 with a provision to make pre- and post-nuptial agreements binding.
The bill would also share the net value of matrimonial property equally between the parties and limit to three years the length of maintenance payments.
Lady Deech said the area 'desperately needs public and parliamentary input' as the law has been developed by judges creating 'uncertainty in application'. It will, she said, reintroduce 'transparency, democracy and understandability' to the law when marriages end.
Under her bill, Deech said there ought to be 'far less need for lawyers,' at least until the point of court appearance, and far fewer court hearings.
'It has the potential to save millions in litigation costs, whether met privately or by the state. It will give a sensible basis for starting mediation and negotiation. It will restore some dignity, certainty, economy and clarity to family law,' she said.
Justice Minister Lord Faulks said the provision to divide property equally may be 'potentially unfair and could cause hardship,' particularly for poorer families with children and the three-year limit for maintenance may also cause hardship and be 'inappropriate for many couples'.
The bill will now be considered by the committee of the whole house.
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