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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

20 NOV 2015

The Grant Thornton Matrimonial Survey reveals key issues for family law

The Grant Thornton Matrimonial Survey reveals key issues for family law
The annual Grant Thornton Matrimonial Survey results show that the key issues for many family law professionals remain depressingly consistent. The top issue in 2014 reappears at the top of the list again this year, with 21% of those surveyed citing the increased number of litigants in person due to lack of public funding as the key issue facing family law. This is followed by the associated lack of legal aid for most family law cases (17%) and courts not being fit for purpose (14%).

However, 32% of the practitioners in London and the South East, felt that the court not being fit for purpose was the key issue facing family law.

Legislative change

As with the previous year the most popular area for legislative change was the introduction of no fault divorce. This was followed by the reintroduction of Calderbank offers generally in financial proceedings (20%) and protection for cohabiting couples (19%). The survey cites the case of Joy v Joy-Marancho [2015] EWHC 2507 (Fam) as igniting a response to reintroduce Calderbank offers.

Sharland and Gohil

Although they are a key talking point in family law, the survey concludes that the cases of Sharland and Gohil do not necessarily mean that a different financial award will result. For experts, the landmark cases raise the question of the lengths to which experts should go to verify information or explanations provided to them.
Nick Andrews, Partner at Grant Thornton UK LLP, adds:

‘It remains to be seen whether many awards will be revisited on the basis of material historical information only coming to light post-award. This may also have an impact on the assessment of the value of assets brought into the marriage, which in some cases will be the subject of a prenuptial agreement.’


The pension reforms this year have led to the majority of respondents (77%) concluding that reaching a financial settlement will be affected by changes in pension rules. Changes in pension legislation have increased flexibility, including the ability to take benefits in full from the age of 55 with minimal restriction.
60 % of respondents expect that pensions will be treated as more of a liquid asset for cases in which one or both of the parties are over 55.

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Who is divorcing?

For those surveyed, the most common age of their clients is between 40 and 49 (74%), and they most likely have been married for between 11 and 20 years (61%) and the average value of their family assets is between £1 million and £2 million (19%). In London and the South East the average was higher, at £2 – 4 million (29%), with almost a quarter of respondents stating that their clients’ average asset value was between £10 million and £50 million (24%).
The most common reason given for marriage breakdown was growing apart or falling out of love (23%), which accords with the profession’s desire to see no-fault divorce enshrined in legislation. An extra marital affair was the second most common reason (22%) and unreasonable behaviour the third (20%).

The economy

44% of respondents to the survey have seen an increase in divorce numbers as the economic recovery has taken hold. However, the majority of respondents (55%) felt that there had been no change in the types of people petitioning for divorce as a result of continued economic recovery. Looking to the future, 50% of respondents expected to see an increase in the future associated with economic recovery.

Maintenance following Wright v Wright

Family law professionals expect that the Wright v Wright case will definitely (54%) or probably (33%) increase the amount of applications to vary maintenance orders. Only 29% of respondents thought the case was unlikely to have an effect.

The Grant Thornton Matrimonial Survey 2015 is available to download here.

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