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  1. Wealth
December 11, 2012

Judges May Lose Discretion in Awarding Pre-Marriage Assets

By Spear's

Hugh James explains that the consultation, which closes today, suggests reducing judges’ discretion on how to allocate ‘non-matrimonial property’, which are assets owned before the marriage, in the event of a divorce

Proposed changes to divorce laws could lead to a change in how non-matrimonial assets are dealt with, says Hugh James, the Top 100 law firm.

Hugh James explains that the consultation, which closes today, suggests reducing judges’ discretion on how to allocate ‘non-matrimonial property’, which are assets owned before the marriage, in the event of a divorce.

Malcolm Stevens, Partner at Hugh James, says: “These proposals are focused on the small minority of cases where at least one of the divorcing spouses is independently wealthy or has amassed significant assets prior to the marriage.

“At the moment judges have a very wide discretion in financial settlements after divorce. This leads to a lot of uncertainty in how assets will be split in a divorce, ramping up lawyers’ fees and court time. Reducing some of this uncertainty is a very welcome step.

Read more: Inherited assets look like they may escape a 50-50 split on divorce

“Some judges are currently unlikely to allow a divorcing spouse to lay claim to non-matrimonial property as part of the divorce proceedings. By reducing judges’ discretion we might be clearer as to what is taken into account and what is not.

“In the vast majority of divorces the arguments are about how to meet the basic needs of the two parties, rather than having to consider what are non-matrimonial assets.”

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The proposed changes include measures that would standardise the ways in which non-marital property might be deemed to have become shared property over time.

The consultation is part of a raft of measures that the Government will be considering with the aim of reducing the cost of divorce disputes by making the financial outcomes from divorce cases more predictable.

Read more on divorce from Spear’s

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