Annual matrimonial law report produces interesting findings

31 August 2011


A recently published report on issues facing both couples and law firms involved in divorce has thrown up some interesting findings. The report, by Grant Thornton UK LLP, a financial and business advisor, is their 8th annual matrimonial survey, carried out by their Forensic and Investigation Matrimonial Services department. The study gathered the opinions of leading family law firms. Whilst the survey appears to cover only England and Wales, the findings make for interesting reading that is sure to be of relevance to family law practitioners across the UK.
Surprisingly, the most common reason for wanting to divorce is growing apart, or falling out of love. However, rules do not allow this as a reason to be cited as a ground for divorce. Previously, extra-marital affair was the main reason for starting divorce proceedings. In Scotland, there are actually only two grounds for divorce: the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage (within this, adultery and unreasonable behaviour are included), or the issue of a gender-reassignment certificate. Further to this, if the parties have lived apart for one year, they can raise an action for divorce with the other person’s consent, and where they have lived apart for two years, consent is not needed.
Financial reasons have been given as a major factor affecting a couple’s decision to divorce. With the economy in its current state, the value of matrimonial assets will be far lower than perhaps in the coming years, leading couples to attempt to reconcile differences and ride out both a stormy marriage and economy – at least for now.
There were also concerns highlighted over compulsory mediation, as it has been stated that couples should have the right to be heard in court if they wish. It was said that mediation could disadvantage the weaker party in proceedings.
For England and Wales, changes in legislation was called for regarding cohabitees. Here in Scotland, robust protection already exists when making financial provision when a cohabitees relationship comes to an end, as it does in some other European countries. Elsewhere in the UK, there is a strong desire to bring the law into line with Scotland.
It was also highlighted that practitioners needed clarity over the so called ‘Imerman rules’. This relates to the case where it was ruled unlawful for evidence obtained by the spouse by secretly taking confidential documents from her husband’s computer to be used to prove his assets. Now, it is a concern that spouses will be able to conceal assets and be free from the potential situation of having them exposed and taken into account during calculation of financial provision in divorce proceedings. 30% of practitioners felt their client had not received a fair settlement due to undisclosed assets.

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