Family law reform: the missing pieces

Family law reform: the missing pieces

Family analysis: Fiona Wood, family practice group leader at Pannone part of Slater & Gordon, discusses how the recent reforms have affected her practice.

What are your views on the quantity and pace of recent reforms?

I deal mostly with divorce and its financial consequences. There have been very few recent changes in this area of law save for judicial decisions which give us guidance on interpreting and implementing the legislation. Since the House of Lords' decision in White v White [2000] 3 FCR 555, [2001] 1 All ER 1, the case law has predominantly been fine tuning how we approach financial remedy cases rather than reforming the law. I feel that the pace of reform in this area is slow.

There is still no law that deals specifically with cohabitants if their relationship ends. Claims can be made on behalf of children or under trust law in some circumstances, but there is no specific statute that deals with the end of a cohabitant's relationship in England and Wales. Scotland does have legislation which allows cohabitants to make financial claims on the breakdown of their relationship. Given that the marriage rate is in decline and the number of couples who cohabit is ever increasing, the law does not seem to be keeping up with how society is changing.

With regard to pre-nuptial agreements the Supreme Court case of Radmacher (formerly Granatino) v Granatino (pre-nuptial contract) [2010] UKSC 42, [2010] 3 FCR 583, gave us fairly strong guidance and has made the position regarding pre-nuptial agreements much clearer. Given the divorce rate, people should be able to enter into pre-nuptial agreements knowing that the terms of the agreement will take into account if their marriage does end and thus hopefully avoid lengthy and expensive litigation. It is not unreasonable for people to want certainty as to what will happen financially if their marriage ends.

From a funding point of view the withdrawal of public funding for the vast majority of divorce cases

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