Divorcing couples will be asked to fill-out a tick box form detailing the money and assets they each want under sweeping plans to streamline the system.
The ten-page document – which could potentially be downloaded online – lets spouses tick boxes asking for maintenance payments, a lump sum and a share of a property.
They can even tick a box ordering that their spouse’s assets are frozen in advance of a court hearing.
Under the plans, newly-established ‘Financial Remedies Courts’ would use the forms to rule on the financial side of a divorce.
Divorcing couples will be asked to fill-out a tick box form detailing the money and assets they each want under sweeping plans to streamline the system. Stock photo
The legal formalities of ending the marriage would then be left, as now, to the family courts.
However, with the financial part settled, this could become little more than a rubber stamping exercise.
Last night legal experts warned the forms could ask too much of couples – who may just ‘tick every available box’ – while family campaigners said it would ‘make the break-up of a marriage about nothing more than money’.
The plans have been drawn up by senior judges led by Britain’s top family court judge Sir James Munby, the president of the High Court’s Family Division.
The plans have been drawn up by senior judges led by Britain’s most senior family court judge Sir James Munby (pictured), the president of the Family Division
In a bulletin sent to judges and lawyers yesterday, Sir James said that ‘Form A’ would be approved for use early next month, with the first Remedies Courts to begin running as part of a pilot scheme that may also start next month.
The forms are expected to be moved online as soon as the Remedies Courts have the technology.
Sir James added that ‘the complete delinking … of divorce and money, so that they are started and pursued by completely separate processes, will proceed with all possible speed’.
The reforms could hasten the disappearance of the idea of fault from divorce law.
Claims that divorce has been caused by adultery or unreasonable behaviour will not be considered by the financial courts, who will simply look at monetary matters.
But critics argue that removing the idea of fault will cheapen the marriage contract and make divorce easier.
The new courts will also hear disputes over money between unmarried cohabitees who break up – a move that is likely to erode the legal distinction between marriage and informal relationships.
Form A will let husbands and wives say what sort of financial settlement they want from their spouse, as well as any settlements for their children. Stock photo
GROUNDS FOR A SPLIT? SNORING!
Forget gambling or drinking – couples are now using political differences, snoring or an obsession with exercise as grounds for divorce.
Lawyers yesterday revealed how partners are stretching the meaning of unreasonable behaviour to include a string of modern sins.
Causes for a break-up may now include spending too long on social media or an addiction to cycling. Nicola McInnes of Gorvins solicitors said: ‘One pattern which seems to be emerging is a change in lifestyle. So we are hearing from a lot of clients about the fact their partner has become a fanatical cyclist. Or has started going to the gym every day.
‘Being fussy about food – maybe becoming vegetarian or giving up dairy and gluten – seems to be another aggravating factor.’
The top grounds for unreasonable behaviour include illness, a lack of gratitude and being hopeless with money.
Form A will let husbands and wives say what sort of financial settlement they want from their spouse, as well as for their children.
One section asks spouses to ‘provide a concise broad assessment of the nature and quantum of assets and income likely to be involved in the case, as well as any features you think are likely to make the case more complex than the norm.’
Sir James plans to have ten ‘hubs’ across the country to handle major cases, such as those involving multi-millionaires, with 47 local courts.
Kathy Gyngell (pictured), co-editor of the Conservative Woman website, said the new form will make the break-up of a marriage about nothing more than money
He has long made clear his ambition to see a system in which divorce ceases to be a legal matter, with divorces instead recorded in local register offices .
But such fundamental reforms would require Parliamentary legislation – something unlikely to happen because the last big attempt at no-fault divorce reform, the 1996 Family Law Act, proved a disastrous failure.
Last night Andrew Newbury, of the Hall Brown Family Law firm, warned the forms are ‘dependent on a certain level of detail which many spouses simply don’t have at this early stage of the divorce process’.
He said: ‘Spouses filing a divorce petition or financial claim tend to tick every available box in order to have it dealt with speedily and this form does not necessarily resolve that issue.’
Kathy Gyngell, co-editor of the Conservative Woman website, said: ‘This is clearly a attempt to bring in no-fault divorce through the back door. It will make the break-up of a marriage about nothing more than money. Marriage will become disposable.’
A spokesman for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service said: ‘We are working with the judiciary on a pilot scheme, creating specialised courts to deal with financial matters arising from divorce and separation.’
Officials indicated that ‘plans are still at an early stage and no decisions have been taken’.