Enforcement of family financial orders – Law Commission report
Commission recommends reforms to make law ‘more effective, accessible and fair’
In a report published today, the Law Commission recommends a package of reforms to make the law governing the enforcement of family financial orders more effective, accessible and fair.
The Law Commission notes that every year many thousands of separating couples apply to the courts for financial orders. Whilst the courts may order the payment of money or transfer of property for the benefit of former spouses, or civil partners and any dependent children, the orders made are not always complied with. Non-compliance can have a devastating impact. Rent or mortgage payments may be missed; basic necessities may become unaffordable; children's standard of living may be affected.
Enforcement can be difficult, especially for those who have to represent themselves. Ineffective enforcement causes real hardship, results in costs to the state and undermines confidence in the justice system.
The Commission recommends wide-ranging reform to improve the current law, including new powers for the courts to obtain information about debtors, and making a wider range of assets available for enforcement purposes. The Commission also recommends new powers for the courts, in appropriate cases, to apply pressure to debtors who can pay but are choosing not do so, by disqualifying debtors from driving and prohibiting them from travelling out of the UK.
The recommendations are made with four key problems with the current law in mind:
- The complexity of the rules
- A lack of information about the debtor
- Some of the debtor's assets being beyond existing enforcement powers
- A lack of means to apply pressure to debtors who can but will not pay.
To simplify the law and provide a more accessible route to recovery, the Commission recommens consolidating the procedural rules, which can be hard to find and difficult to follow. It also recommends providing more guidance and information for litigants.
Professor Nicholas Hopkins, Law Commissioner for property, family and trust law said:
"The current law for the enforcement of family financial orders is unnecessarily complicated and often ineffective. These problems cause real hardship for the individuals involved. Judges need the necessary powers to ensure that those who can pay, but choose not to, comply with court orders. We make extensive recommendations to make the law governing the enforcement of family financial orders more effective, accessible and fair."