Divorce proceedings: are formulas "family-friendly"?

 

Divorce proceedings will become cheaper and more consistent, according to senior members of the judiciary.

Canadian-style "cookie-cutter" justice could soon become a permanent fixture through reforms being proposed by the Law Commission.

Import of Canadian divorce law

The Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements Consultation looks set to incorporate the Canadian Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines.

Under the changes, the amounts that divorcing couples can expect to receive will be calculated by a mathematical formula that considers factors such as the length of a marriage and the number of children.

Judges will be able to vary pay-outs. However, for the most part, the new formula will set upper and lower guide limits for settlements. For childless couples, the length of the marriage and income differential will decide the settlement and the duration of post-divorce support.

The aim of the reforms is to increase consistency in divorce judgments - providing couples with clarity regarding their entitlement if they decide to part ways and reducing the cost of divorce by deterring unrealistic claims.

"Cookie-cutter" justice

Critics of the system, introduced in Canada in 2008, argue that it is "cookie-cutter" justice in which divorce settlements are too rigid, rather than based on the merits of each case.

"A one-size-fits-all approach creates a big risk that fairness in individual cases won't be maintained," said Jonathan West, head of family law at Prolegal.

Whilst cost reduction is a worthwhile cause, West views higher costs as the trade-off for securing justice: "...to look at cases in a bespoke way may cost more than the 'cookie-cutter' model but, if we're committed to maintaining the highest standards of justice and fairness...there's no substitute."

However, West does concede that the current system is in need of reform and points to the problematic use of 'joint life orders,' in which one spouse is required to pay maintenance to the other for a period of time significantly longer than the marriage. "The current system discourages the poorer spouse from remarrying because doing so would jeopardise their income," claimed West.

In defence of the new guidelines, their supporters highlight that their use is entirely voluntary and outline a number of exceptions that justify departure from the formula, such as marital debts, prior support obligations, disability and unequal property division.

Although reminiscent of the formulaic approach adopted by the largely unpopular Child Support Agency, the Canadian experience suggests that the guidelines may yet prove that formulas can indeed work for families.

If you need legal advice on divorce proceedings we can put you in touch with an expert solicitor. Call us now on 0800 1777 162.
Call
0800 1777 162
or fill in the form
Our trained advisor contacts you
Your chosen specialist solicitor calls you
Quick enquiry form
Area of law:
Name:
Town/City:
Email:
Phone:
What our clients say about us
"The firm you recommended was extremely helpful. Your service has been very useful indeed and I won't hesitate to contact you again or recommend your service to friends and family." Liz, family law, South Wales, Aug 13
"I am very grateful for your help...my thanks for listening to the relevant points and surrounding issues and making this recommendation. In a word - excellent!"
Peter, family law, Oswestry, Feb 14
"I want to thank you for constantly being in touch and providing me with different options. I would highly recommend Contact Law to anyone who needs legal assistance." AP, employment law, London, Dec 13
"Thank you so much for your recommendation. The solicitor suggested really interesting alternatives, and gave me moral support. I'm so glad I came across your website."
LR, Kingston, Nov 10
"We engaged the solicitor's services and everything has been fantastic. It was such a relief...I wish I had called you earlier and saved myself hours of calls!"
Jaye, civil litigation, N. Yorks, Feb 13
"Contact Law's solicitors were fantastic and won me the compensation I was hoping for following my accident."

Tom F, PI, Edinburgh, March 09
"Sincere thanks for making things a lot easier for me and my family. When I contacted you initially I really didn't know where to start and was terrified by what costs might be involved."TC, London, March 11
"The service you provided was very good. It was informative, you listened to me and determined the best way forward. Thanks for your help."
JC, Swindon, April 14
"Initially I was sceptical about asking a question online (never having done that before) but would do it again and would recommend others do the same." Pete Chambers, Feb 12
"Thanks for following up. We are going with [the recommended solicitor] and I'm very please with the way you have helped us. I will certainly recommend you to our clients." John, commercial property law, London, May 13

We use cookies on the Contact Law site to help us improve it.

If you would like to allow our cookies, please click 'Continue' or carry on browsing. For more information on cookies and how to change your settings, click 'More info'.