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Guidance to be issued for separating couples

At present, the court has a wide discretion when deciding how property and income are distributed upon divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership. Following a report published earlier this year by the Law Commission on ‘Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements’, the Ministry of Justice will take forward the recommendations to provide guidance on the distribution of assets and to clarify the law on ‘financial needs’ which is one of the main factors the court takes into account.The guidance will help separating couples by:

Dispelling some of the myths surrounding how assets are divided
Giving realistic expectations
Helping mediators when giving advice to separating couples
Helping courts to remove any regional variations when it comes to the interpretation of ‘financial needs’

Recommendations include the need for some kind of formula to help calculate the likely outcome of a case and also that qualifying nuptial agreements be binding upon the parties.At present, not all cases are determined by the court and many cases are settled with parties having the benefit of a family lawyer who takes into account the factors the court considers in determining how assets and income are to be divided and based on the specific circumstances of their particular case.  Parties can also reach an agreement with the assistance of mediation and Atherton Godfrey can offer fully accredited and experienced mediation.  Cath Freeman, one of our specialist family lawyers, said:  “It is hoped that in some simpler cases parties will be able to reach their own agreement, but to be sure that they receive their full entitlement, it is likely that most will need some advice.  “There is also a question whether a mediator can retain the necessary impartiality if they are expected to advise clients on the guidance.  We welcome greater clarity but hope that this will not be at the expense of fairness to all”. Atherton Godfrey has a team of specialist family lawyers who will advise on the changes when they come into effect and will be able to give guidance on the application of the new rules.  It is hoped that the changes will simplify and shorten the process. 

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