Law Commission Report on Enforcement

A Law Commission report has called on the government for tougher powers to enforce family financial orders, after concerns that measures to put into effect such orders (whereby one party transfers money or property to the other when a marriage or civil partnership comes to an end, or some payments in relation to children) can prove insufficient.

A financial order is of little comfort to the party left out of pocket and potentially in financial hardship because the paying party is able but unwilling to comply. The Law Commission has proposed steps to tackle unwillingness to pay, as well as measures to distinguish those who can pay but won’t pay from those who may genuinely be unable to meet their obligations. Stronger powers to discourage non-payment could include coercive measures – the report proposed disqualification from driving or a ban from overseas travel. Other suggestions included increasing the court’s access to the paying party’s assets, including their pension, future income and any funds held in joint accounts.

The report was commissioned after the Family Bar Association raised the issue in a law reform consultation. Its findings have been widely welcomed by family lawyers who hope to see it given full consideration by the Ministry of Justice.