DIY divorces proposed by Law Commission

Couples in England and Wales would be allowed to make legally binding pre and post-nuptial agreements for the first time, under plans to be considered by the Government.

Critics say the plans “undermine marriage” and essentially say money is “more important” than commitment.

The Law Commission, a body which advises the Government on changes to the law, has put forward a draft Bill introducing ‘qualifying nuptial agreements’ that are legally binding.

Guidance

They also recommended that the Family Justice Council, an advisory body of representatives from the family justice system, devise guidance which could make it easier for couples to have ‘DIY’ divorces.

Currently couples can make financial agreements before they divorce, but courts do not have to uphold them.

Harry Benson of the Marriage Foundation think-tank said that legally enforced pre-nups could lead to more divorce.

Disaster

“If you go into a pre-nuptial agreement essentially someone is getting down on their knee to you and saying; ‘darling, will you spend the rest of your life with me and marry me, but will you sign this piece of paper that says I get to keep all my toys in the event of a disaster'”, he said.

“One of the more robust findings in social science is that if you think about divorce you are more likely to do it. The pre-nup is key to set you on that path”, he added.

Professor Elizabeth Cooke, the law commissioner for property, family and trust law, explained that the new agreements would offer couples “autonomy and control”, helping to avoid disputes and keep costs down.

Commonplace

“Pre- and post-nuptial agreements are becoming more commonplace but the courts will not always follow them and lawyers are therefore not able to give clear advice about their effect”, she said.

Simon Calvert from The Christian Institute said he’s concerned about the “psychological impact” on couples entering a marriage with a pre-nuptial agreement.

“I think that we should be encouraging people to commit together for life and to commit to giving each other everything, and to commit to working through whatever problems do come up, so they can emerge out the other side and marriage provides a safe place for them to do that”, he added.

Meaningless

Last week the Roman Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury warned that pre-nuptial agreements will make marriage vows meaningless.

The Rt Revd Mark Davies said: “Should we not be putting our efforts into guarding and building-up the institution of marriage rather than steadily undermining it?”

According to the Daily Telegraph, sources say ministers are set to broadly welcome the suggestions.

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