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Family analysis: Professor Nick Hopkins, Law Commissioner for the Property, Family and Trust law and Maxwell Myers, research assistant in the Property, Family and Trust law team, discuss the recommendations for reform of the law of the enforcement of family financial orders in the Law Commission’s report published on 15 December 2016.
Enforcement of Family Financial Orders (Law Com 370)
What does the report cover?
The Law Commission report, Enforcement of Family Financial Orders (Law Com 370), contains a number of recommendations for reform of the law of the enforcement of family financial orders. The package of proposals is designed to create an effective and accessible system that operates in a way that is fair to both the creditor and the debtor.
Family financial orders are typically made on the ending of a marriage or civil partnership and require the payment of money, or the transfer of property, between the former spouses or civil partners. Family financial orders can also be made between parents under Schedule 1 to the Children Act 1989. The enforcement of child maintenance payable following a calculation by the Child Maintenance Service falls outside the scope of the report. The recommendations are therefore concerned with how court orders can best be enforced, rather than the size or nature of the original order.
How significant an issue is enforcement?
The enforcement of family financial orders is a practically important yet often overlooked area of law. The Law Commission estimates that there are on average 4,200 enforcement cases annually in relation to family financial orders and that approximately £15-20m owed under such orders goes unpaid each year. Resolution, an organisation representing over 6,500 professionals working in family law, described the effect of non-payment in this context as potentially ’catastrophic’.
Further, these figures are likely to be an underestimate as they do not account for those individuals who are not receiving what they are owed under a family financial order, but who do not
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