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Enforcing family financial orders – Law Commission proposes better solutions for separating couples

Consultation open until 11th July 2015

In a consultation opening today, the Law Commission is seeking views on options for reform that would simplify and clarify the law and make it easier for the courts, practitioners and the public to use. In its consultation paper the Commission explores ways in which existing mechanisms for enforcing compliance can be made more effective and considers new mechanisms that might be used, in particular to bring pressure to bear on those who refuse to meet their obligations under a family financial order.

The Law Commission notes that under existing law, the courts can struggle to enforce the family financial orders they make. The mechanisms for enforcement are contained in a range of legislation and court rules. Court users can find the process bewildering and parties often face significant expense and distress in trying to get what they are owed which can lead to hardship for them and their children.

The Commission suggests reforms that would provide the courts and former partners with more useful information about the financial position of the party who has not complied. This would provide a better understanding of why a financial order has not been met, and enable the parties to make decisions about enforcement and find a solution. The Commission also makes proposals for information, support and advice to be provided for the public affected by the enforcement of family financial orders.

Professor Elizabeth Cooke, Law Commissioner for property, family and trust law, said:

"The law governing the enforcement of family financial orders is hard to understand and difficult to use. When the courts cannot enforce family financial orders, it can lead to real hardship for former partners and children and place a huge burden on the state. We need to understand whether existing mechanisms for enforcement are working as well as they might, what other powers the courts might use to tackle non-payment, and how we can find better solutions for couples when one partner is able to pay but refuses to do so."

The consultation is open from 11 March to 11 July 2015.

The consultation paper is available here.