Law Commission drags heels on divorce reform

Law Commission drags heels on divorce reformThe Law Commission’s attitude to the enforcement of pre-nuptial agreements has been slammed by family lawyers’ association Resolution for its lack of urgency.

Resolution believes that by refusing to discuss whether pre-nuptial agreements should be legally enforceable, the commission is stalling a wider examination of divorce laws, which have not been revamped since 1973.

The commission will not create a draft parliamentary bill on the issue – which would bring the system in England and Wales in line with that in Scotland – until 2012. Dawsons partner Suzanne Kingston, a member of Resolution’s board, told The Lawyer: “The Law Commission’s recommendations could change the face of divorce in England and Wales. I am, however, disappointed that we must wait until 2012 before the review is concluded. It’s also of concern that pending the review the law may develop by way of ad hoc case law rather than statutory reform.”

Kingston’s concerns were echoed by Mishcon de Reya head of family Sandra Davis, who said that existing divorce laws were flawed and have so far been defined by judges rather than the Government.

Withers partner Mark Harper said the need for divorce law reform was long overdue, adding that as they stand the proposed reforms are not broad enough.

Harper said he was particularly disappointed that the commission had refused to reform Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act, which lays down basic guidelines for the settlement of matrimonial assets and financial matters.

“It effectively means the courts will continue to be clogged by wealthy people who want to litigate on points of law,” Harper said.