Impacts and Changes to Family Law – The 2016 Matrimonial Survey

February 15, 2017  |   Posted by :   |   Blog

A 2016 matrimonial survey carried out by business advisors Grant Thornton has revealed ‘key issues in the forefront of the minds of family lawyers’ regarding UK divorce ‘in principle and in practice’.

The report surveyed 76 family lawyers for their thoughts on the current state of the family law system, including the rise of litigants in person (LiPs), non-disclosure of assets in divorce cases, and the benefits of introducing an option for ‘no fault divorce’.

The findings showed that the key issues concerning UK family lawyers were consistent with the last four years of research, namely the pressure on the family courts resulting from cuts to legal aid and public funding, which has in turn led to delays, court closures, an increase in LiPs, and a general overburdening of the family courts.

Another subject raised in the survey was the issue of non-disclosure in financial settlements – an increasing concern prompted by the successful appeal of Sharland and Cohil in 2016 against partners who had concealed the full extent of their assets during divorce proceedings. A total of 44% of respondents reported that 10% of cases they dealt with involved concealed assets, while the proportion of respondents who stated they dealt with non-disclosure in 20-30% of cases was shown to have increased by 16% since 2014.

When asked what changes in legislation the respondents would like to see, the top three answers were:

  • The introduction of no fault divorce (27%)
  • Protection for cohabiting couples (22%)
  • The reintroduction of Calderbank offers (20%)

Other methods of dispute resolution were also considered in the survey as effective alternatives to court divorce. Mediation was deemed the most appropriate method for family law in 44% of responses, followed by collaborative family law (15%). However, respondents were keen to emphasise that the circumstances of each case must be taken into account in order for clients to determine which method is most suitable for them.

Statistics for divorce in 2016 revealed that marriage breakdown was most likely after 11-20 years, with 77% of survey respondents reporting that the majority of their clients were aged 40-49, with ‘falling out of love’ cited as the most common reason for divorce.

The full report can be found here.

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