Financial settlement on divorce

13 February 2014

A new report funded by the Nuffield Foundation examines the process for settling financial issues on divorce, both in and out of court. It is the first study of its kind since the rollout of a new procedural pathway in 2000.

Through analysis of court file data and interviews with family solicitors and mediators, all conducted prior to the legal aid reforms in 2013, the research report, Assembling the Jigsaw Puzzle: understanding financial settlement on divorce, explores the "how", "when" and "why" of these cases: How is settlement reached, in particular in terms of out of court dispute mechanisms used? Where contested proceedings are launched but settled, when is settlement achieved in terms of the various stages along the procedural pathway? And why is settlement achieved, delayed or (unusually) prevented?

The findings highlight the complementary roles of solicitors and mediators in achieving settlement out of court, the variety of non-legal as well as legal/procedural factors that can promote or hinder settlement, and the difficulties that may be experienced in cases involving litigants in person, who may become more prevalent following the removal of legal aid for lawyers’ services in financial cases (other than in support of mediation) from April 2013.

Jo Miles, one of the report's authors, presented findings at the Family Justice Council conference on 7 February. The co-authors are Emma Hitchings from the University of Bristol and Hilary Woodward from Cardiff University.

An article summarising the key findings will be published in the March issue of Family Law. The full report is available to download from the University of Bristol website.