The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 is 50 years old today!

Family - 2 minutes read

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (“the MCA 1973”) received Royal Assent 50 years ago today. This means that the statutory framework that sets out what is a fair financial settlement on divorce (and also now at the ending of a civil partnership) has been in place for half a century.

The Law Commission of England and Wales has recently launched a review of these laws and will consider whether the current law is working effectively and delivering fair and consistent outcomes for divorcing couples. The Law Commission is due to publish an initial scoping report in September 2024, which could provide the basis for a full review and future financial remedies reform.

Whether or not the law in this area needs to be reformed is a moot point among family law practitioners. The argument for reform focuses on the unpredictable and sometimes contradictory application of the MCA 1973, which can lead to uncertainty, acrimony and often lengthy and expensive litigation, all of which can impact the children of the family negatively. With limited availability of Legal Aid, many families are forced to represent themselves in their divorce proceedings and would likely benefit from a simpler set of principles, which might make early settlement more likely.

On the other hand, the broad scope of the current legislation allows the court to make bespoke decisions on an individual basis, which can lead to a fairer outcome for families. Although the current statutory framework has been in place for 50 years, the law has evolved over time through case law and some therefore consider that the legislation has stood the test of time and will continue to do so. A more prescribed approach would not always achieve a fair outcome in more complex nuanced cases.

As many couples are now choosing not to either marry or enter into a civil partnership, many family law practitioners question whether this is the right area of family law to be focussing on at this stage. Unmarried couples currently have no statutory provision in the event of the breakdown of their relationship, and reform of this area of law ought to be the priority.

Talk to us

If you would like any advice on the law governing your finances on the breakdown of your relationship (whether you are married, in a civil partnership or not), then do not hesitate to get in touch with our highly experienced family law team.

We are dedicated to resolving matters as amicably as possible and every solicitor in our family team are members of Resolution which means we have a duty to reduce conflict wherever possible.