Peter Lowe Archive

Mediation becomes compulsory for divorcing couples

In an effort to reduce the number of divorce cases ending up in court, the government started to encourage divorcing couples to use mediation as the first port of call. Since April 2011, any application to issue court proceedings was supposed to be accompanied by a form (FM1) that confirmed that mediation had been considered in all cases involving money and/or children. As it transpired, this requirement appeared to be largely ignored and court proceedings commenced regardless, with no obvious sanctions for non-compliance. Therefore, under the Family and Children Act 2013, attending an initial Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (which is essentially an introduction to the mediation process, not the process itself) became mandatory in April 2014, except for cases where safety (primarily domestic violence and / or abuse) is an issue.

New divorce consultation hoped to bring clarity

It is hoped that a new consultation launched by the Law Commission will bring clarity to the ‘opaque area of the law’ surrounding divorce settlements, according to a Midland legal expert. As it stands, the law gives no clear guidance on what is considered a fair financial outcome making it difficult for lawyers to predict how a judge might determine a fair or reasonable division of assets.

Clarification on property disputes between cohabitees

More than half of couples in the 16 – 44 age group are now cohabiting rather than being married and many of them will jointly own their property. But they rarely have a formal agreement that clearly sets out how the property should be divided in the event of the relationship breaking down. The Supreme Court has handed down their decision in Jones v Kernott, a case that concerned the allocation of shares in a jointly owned property after the relationship ended.

Inheritance rights of a cohabitee

The Law Commission has recommended that in certain circumstances, unmarried couples should have the same inheritance rights as spouses when a partner dies without making a will. Cohabitation is widespread and increasing. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of cohabiting couples in England and Wales will increase from 2.3 million in 2008 to 3.8 million in 2033. Yet the Law Commission has suggested that cohabitants are among the people least likely to have a will, meaning that surviving cohabitants are often left with nothing.

Are prenuptial agreements legally binding in the UK?

Prenuptial agreements were recognised as enforceable under British divorce law for the first time in the case of Katrin Radmacher and Nicholas Granatino. Before Katrin Radmacher and Nicholas Granatino married in 1998, the wealthy German heiress ensured that her husband signed a prenuptial agreement promising to make no claims on her fortune if the marriage failed. Katrin Radmacher was a wealthy woman with shares in a family company worth around £50 million and further assets of around £55 million all of which were inherited before her marriage. At the time of the breakdown of the marriage Mr Granatino was earning £30,000 as an academic at Oxford University.
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