New ways of enforcing financial orders in divorce settlements have been proposed, the aim being to reduce the number of ex-spouses who refuse to meet their financial obligations.
Divorce is often an emotional time for couples. Circumstances become more difficult when one ex-spouse relies on the other financially in order to continue to meet rent or mortgage payments, bills and/or to meet the children’s financial needs.
According to the recent Law Commission report, there are around 4,200 annual enforcement cases in relation to financial orders, with an estimated £15-20m unpaid each year.
As it stands, the threat of imprisonment for failing to comply with a court order is rarely followed through by the courts who require a criminal standard of proof. This causes many families hardship.
The recommendations of the Law Commission are that more reasonable punishments such as driving disqualifications and the confiscation of a passport, are likely to encourage compliance with orders and, for those who still don’t make the payment, are more likely to be enforced.
The new proposals will also allow the courts to obtain bank statements and the tax records of individuals who refuse to pay which again poses a more likely threat than that of imprisonment.
This will no doubt cause issues in circumstances where individuals require their driving licence or passport to be able to work to pay for the financial order. It is also not clear whether funds held outside the jurisdiction will be required to be disclosed, in which case this gives individuals a loophole to withhold funds from their spouse legitimately.
Whether this comes into effect is to be determined, but clearly the difficulties in enforcing financial orders are being explored which will no doubt lead to changes in the coming months or years.
If you would like to discuss financial settlement in the context of current or impending divorce proceedings, please do not hesitate to contact us. Call us on 01732 525923, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Article by Laura Ware, Solicitor, Griffin Law