Pre-nups, needs and fees : The last week in family law

The Law Commission has published its much-anticipated report on Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements. The Commission recommended that the Family Justice Council produce authoritative guidance on what constitutes “financial needs”. It also recommended that legislation be enacted to introduce “qualifying nuptial agreements”. These would be enforceable contracts, not subject to the scrutiny of the courts, which would enable couples to make binding arrangements about the financial consequences of divorce or dissolution. As to the issue of what does or does not constitute ‘matrimonial property’ (and therefore fall into the ‘pot’ for division between the parties), the Commission made no recommendations at all.

Nearly 11,000 people are considered by the police to be at high risk of being killed or seriously injured by their current or former partners, according to official figures. Data from 34 out of the 44 police forces in England, Wales and Scotland reveals that at least 10,952 individuals, most of whom are women, were deemed to be at high risk of violent death in the home, or of suffering serious violence, in the year to November.

Mike Luckwell, the director of the media company that created children’s programme Bob the Builder has reacted angrily to a High Court award of £1.2m that was made to his son-in-law despite prenuptial agreements. In Luckwell v Limata Mr Justice Holman ordered that Frankie Limata was entitled to about £1.2m from his wife Victoria Luckwell to give him a home and pay off his debts following their separation. Mr Justice Holman warned his decision could mean Luckwell having to sell her home in Connaught Square, London that had been given to her by her father. Mr Luckwell said Limata had gone back on three pre-marital agreements that he would not make claims against family assets. However, Mr Justice Holman ruled proper provision must be made for Limata, despite the agreements, in particular to avoid the divorce having a damaging impact upon the couple’s three children.

And finally, senior judges have warned that government proposals for reforming court fees are based on ‘inadequate’ and compromised research, and basic misconceptions about the way the courts operate. In their response to a Ministry of Justice consultation paper they stated that they were “unable to share the Ministry of Justice’s confidence that the proposals will not affect access to justice”. As to the proposal that the fee for a divorce petition should be raised to £750, they did not agree with this, saying that it “would act as a significant impediment to access to justice for many individuals”.