Matrimonial Property – A Much Welcomed Review

Following its 2012 consultation on marital property agreements ("pre nups") The Law Commission has launched a supplementary consultation paper examining the different aspects of law relating to the financial consequences of divorce and of the dissolution of a civil partnership.

The consultation will consider the law relating to what extent one spouse should be required to meet the other's financial needs, and what exactly is meant by needs; and what happens to property that one of the partners owned before the relationship or acquired during the course of it.

The recent reforms to legal aid will inevitably mean that there will be more litigants in person and therefore the Law Commission is looking at ways to simplify the process of dividing a couples assets and income.

The consultation paper also asks  "whether financial support should continue to be determined by the court, at the judge's discretion, or whether it should be calculated by reference to a formula, so substituting greater predictability for individualised discretion".  In other words imposing a rigid formula applicable in all cases.  This would make the outcome much clearer however it does not allow for some cases where the rigid formula may not meet their needs.

The Supplementary Consultation Paper asks questions about:

(1) the definition of non-matrimonial property;

(2) whether there should be a rule that it is not shared;

(3) whether that rule should be subject to the further rule that it must be shared if it is required to meet needs; and

(4) whether non-matrimonial property can ever become matrimonial, either by the passage of time or because it has been sold and replaced or has appreciated in value as a result of investment or management by either party.

For many couples their main focus is the law relating to needs. Even if needs are met, there is nothing left over to share. However, for some wealthier families non-matrimonial property is important.

The Law Commission recognises that this is a difficult area of law and there are no "quick fix" solutions but it is keen to hear from as many people as possible.  The paper can be downloaded free of charge at and the consultation period is open unitl 11 December 2012.