Number 1 – Pension Advisory Group 2 – “PAG2”:
One of the most important things to consider on divorce is your pension. In July 2019, The Pension Advisory Group (“PAG”) published a Report in order to try and explain the current law and facilitate best practice when it comes to treating pensions on divorce. The Report’s aim was to address inconsistencies in the treatment of pensions on divorce. PAG2 is set to take matters further by addressing some of the following:
- The introduction of a Pension Dashboard programme;
- Consideration in relation to whether an apportionment of pension rights would be fair;
- How to treat pensions in short marriages;
- National Insurance credits;
- Child Benefit credits.
Number 2 – Court fee increases:
Whether you are in or out of Court proceedings, you will find yourself having to pay a Court fee or Court fees. If you commence divorce proceedings, at present, the Court fee is £593. If you are applying for a Child Arrangements Order, the Court fee is £232. To file a Consent Order at Court in order to obtain a final financial order, the Court fee is £53.
From April 2024, it is anticipated that Court fees will increase and as such, if you are thinking about applying for divorce or filing any application at Court, it is worth thinking about the increase that will likely take place towards the start of the year. For example:
- Divorce application – proposed increase to £652 from £593
- Children Act applications – proposed increase to £255 from £232
- On notice applications or without consent – proposed increase to £184 from £167
- Without notice applications or with consent – proposed increase to £58 from £53
- Application for a financial order – proposed increase to £303 from £275
Number 3 – Reform of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973:
Perhaps the most significant change on the horizon is the potential reform of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. Now that the Act has celebrated its 50th birthday, there are growing calls for the law to be reformed and modernised. The Act currently sets out which orders that the Court can make and provides guidance on the factors which will be considered by Judges when they impose a settlement on a couple. The welfare of any child of the family who has not attained the age of eighteen is the Court’s first consideration. Thereafter, the Act asks the Court to consider the following:
- The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each spouse has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future. This includes any increase in earning capacity which a spouse can reasonably acquire (for example, by completing further training).
- The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each spouse has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future.
- The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.
- The age of each spouse and the length of the marriage.
- Any physical or mental disability which either spouse has.
- The contributions which each spouse has made or is likely to make to the welfare of the family in the foreseeable future. Crucially, this includes contributions made by looking after the family home or looking after children.
- The conduct of each spouse, although in practice little if any weight is given to this factor, unless there is misconduct that is so serious that it would be inequitable to disregard it.
- Any value which either spouse will lose the chance of acquiring as a result of the divorce (for example, interests under a pension).
A Judge deciding the outcome of a hearing will exercise discretion and every one case is different to another. There have been calls for reform with a consultation having been launched by the Law Commission (expected to be completed in September 2024). The Law Commission will look at whether the current law is working effectively and whether the outcomes of financial proceedings are proven to be consistent and fair for all going through the process.
It is therefore looking as though 2024 is going to be a year of change for Family Law. Having already dealt with the change to No-Fault Divorce in 2022 and the introduction of the pilot scheme allowing accredited journalists and legal bloggers to report on family law cases in 2023, our expert family lawyers are here to help you navigate your way through 2024 and the changes that are on the horizon.
Author: Fay Jones