Call for money disputes to be separated from divorce process

By Lenore Rice

A senior family law figure has called for financial disputes to be removed from the divorce process and dealt with separately in order to reduce the pressures on family courts.

President of the Family Division of the High Court, Sir James Munby, says it is time for "a complete de-linking - separation - of divorce and 'money', so that they are started and pursued by completely separate processes". He adds that the timeline for dealing with any financial disputes would "be determined by the progress of the divorce", and calls for a simplification of the process with "a common form of application, a common set of forms, a common process and common procedure".

Sir James points out that only a minority of divorce cases result in a money claim, and that the divorce process is otherwise mostly administrative and bureaucratic, rarely involving face-to-face contact. There is therefore a great opportunity to digitise the divorce process and generally improve the efficiency and expense of the procedures around getting a divorce.

There is greater judicial involvement when a money claim is involved, "requiring considered expert judicial approval of the final order". However, Sir James believes that reform in this area can be achieved relatively easily as there is little to no change required to primary legislation. He considers that changes to Practice Directions and forms would largely be sufficient to facilitate the separation of money disputes from the divorce process.

Sir James says that a priority must be to begin the "early implementation of pilot Financial Remedies Courts", which would be a formal recognition of money work as a specialty in the family law courts. In his article, which you can read by clicking here, Sir James sets out a timetable to achieve the de-linking of divorce and money which would see most changes in place by Spring 2018.

The proposal has been welcomed by the family charity National Family Mediation, with CEO Jane Robey, commenting that the "court forms that separating couples are expected to use belong to a bygone age" with "arcane language" that is "hardly fit for the late 20th century, let alone the 21st". She says it is "time to start demystifying the processes involved so we can help people help themselves through the divorce maze".

If you require legal advice from a divorce solicitor in Northern Ireland contact Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast or Bangor by clicking here.