Matrimonial Causes Act – what is it?

When spouses or civil partners separate they can often spend a considerable amount of time negotiating over how their financial assets should be divided between them.

The main law governing how couples can do this is The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 which determines how financial assets are split after divorce in England and Wales. However it has not had any substantial amendments made to it since it was enacted 50 years ago.

Critics have long said the legislation is uncertain and unpredictable as it has been developed by case law, allowing judges to use their discretion to assess each case and make different awards. Spouses are therefore often forced to fund costly legal battles due to a lack of clear guidance on how wealth should be divided.

Justice minister Lord Bellamy plans to ask the Law Commission, the independent agency which reviews legislation, to examine whether the act needs updating.  He said: “The Government is in close consultation with the Law Commission, which we consider the most appropriate body to carry out that review. These matters will be considered fully in a forthcoming review, hopefully by the Law Commission. The Government thinks that the Law Commission is best placed to investigate all these matters, establish what the existing law and practice is and where the problems lie, and make comparative studies of various other jurisdictions, including Australia and elsewhere, as has already been mentioned.”

Until any change is enacted, separating couples must continue to keep the lines of communication open and try to come to mutually acceptable terms of settlement whilst avoiding court action. At Barker Gotelee our family department can help navigate this tricky time and conduct negotiations for anyone who finds they are not getting anywhere themselves. Contact us on 01473 611 211 to book an initial consultation.

Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich.

Suffolk Divorce Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email