On 11th March 2015, the Law Commission published a consultation paper on the enforcement of family financial orders in England and Wales. The Commission had been told that the current enforcement proceedings were “hopelessly complex and procedurally tortuous”. The laws were found in various statutes and rules of court which meant that their efficiency and effectiveness was limited against debtors who choose not to pay.
With the significant changes taking place in family law with the introduction of the single Family Court, but the reduction of availability of legal aid in private family proceedings this has placed an onus upon Government to ensure that there is a reform of the law which could offer a clear set of rules and hopefully the opportunity for individuals to access a full range of enforcement options without the need for multiple court hearings.
It is hoped that such reform would enable the court to consider enforcement against a wide range of assets. It could also allow the enforcement regime to work effectively when small amounts are owed so that parties are not forced to wait until large arrears are due before enforcing orders in their favour.
It should be noted that the consultation does not include the enforcement of child maintenance calculated by the Child Maintenance Service where additional remedies such as “disqualification of driving” already exist as a potential remedy of last resort.
The Commission is looking at the enforcement of spousal maintenance arrears, payment of lump sums, property transfers and orders for the sale of properties. The impact of non-payment of family financial orders is different to that of most civil debts. Most orders are designed to support the recipient and quite often children within a home. The non-payment can lead to other tensions within the family sparking off other litigation such as injunction proceedings for domestic violence and or Children Act proceedings.
The project which opened on 11th March will remain open until July 2015 after which the Law Commission estimates publishing a report with final recommendations to Government by Summer 2017.
To respond to the consultation you can download a copy of the consultation paper here