The settlement of the financial arrangements is often seen as the final step in the break-up of a marriage. Regrettably, in too many cases, the arrangements, which are set out in a 'family financial order' (FFO), are not adhered to and the proceedings involved in obtaining enforcement of the orders have been described as 'hopelessly complex and procedurally tortuous'.
An FFO is often made to meet the needs of children as well as an ex-spouse, and non-payment can cause real hardship to both. In an attempt to simplify the operation of FFOs in England and Wales and improve their effectiveness, the Law Commission has published a consultation paper on their enforcement.
The consultation is designed to take account of 'the importance of ensuring that the debtor complies with FFOs, including:
- the particular nature of debts owed under FFOs including the emotional context;
- the importance in distinguishing debtors who cannot pay from those who can but refuse to do so, and the information that creditors and the court need to make this distinction; and
- the possibility of bringing pressure to bear on those debtors who have the ability to pay but who choose not to comply with the court order.'
Following responses to the consultation, it is hoped that legislation will be brought in during the next session of Parliament, possibly becoming law in 2016.