Paul Lancaster, partner of the Family Law team at Blacks Solicitors, looks into the latest proposals from the Law Commission:
“The Law Commission has published new proposals which aim to make the enforcement of family financial orders ‘more effective, accessible and fair’ and implement tough sanctions for those who refuse to pay their former spouse’s divorce settlement.
The Commission states that many divorcees are ignoring the orders, with as many as 4,200 enforcement cases each year amounting to an estimate of £15m to £20m of debts each year which go unrecovered, leaving the recipient spouses at a serious detriment and hardship.
The current position allows those that are owed money to take their ex-spouses to Court where a jail sentence may be ordered however, because a criminal standard of proof is required, in reality this type of sanction is rarely enforced.
The report recommends a wide-ranging reform, including the power for the Courts to obtain information about debtors, broadening the range of assets available for enforcement purposes and introducing further punitive measures such as disqualifying debtors from driving and prohibiting them from travelling out of the UK.
The Commission has, however, confirmed that they will not put ex-spouses in a self-defeating position whereby they can no longer earn a living as a result of a driving ban. The commission is therefore also recommending that the Courts have the power to confiscate passports which would be returned once the debt is settled. It is believed these measures will go some way to tackling the growing culture of non-payment.
The proposal will now be considered by government and the Justice Secretary over the course of the upcoming year to decide if the proposals will be legislated.”