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Munby praises new guide to help LiPs through divorce

Family division president hopes understanding of court processes and language will be improved

6 April 2016

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The Family Justice Council has launched a new guide to help litigants in person (LiPs) reach financial agreements without the need to go to court.

Sorting Out Finances on Divorce is aimed at demystifying any complexities in the areas of law encountered in divorces, which many LiPs may find intimidating such as housing needs, child maintenance, and dealing with pensions.

Aimed specifically at non-legal readers, its primary purpose is to provide a road map through what can be uncharted territory for those married or in a civil partnership.

A Family Justice Council financial needs working group led by Mrs Justice Roberts and which included barristers, judges, and academics composed the guide.

The release comes two years after the Law Commission published a report calling for greater clarity regarding the distribution of assets and the determination of financial needs on divorce and civil partnership dissolution.

Commenting on the guide, Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division, said the objective in all cases was to achieve a result that reflects the best possible outcome for each family.

'In this context, the guide provides a general overview of the law, as well as a detailed explanation of particular issues which are likely to arise, such as maintenance, housing, and pensions. It also includes useful examples and FAQs and describes what a judge is likely to do in similar cases.'

Munby also thanked legal charity AdviceNow, which has produced a shorter online version of the guide.

Philip Marshall QC, a family law practitioner based at 1 King's Bench Walk, and a member of the working group, said: 'We were determined to avoid any and all unnecessary 'legalese' so that litigants in person could really understand the process the judges adopt without worrying about the terminology.

'Hopefully, one of the most useful parts of the Guidance will be the practical worked examples which we pitched at an everyday level, to avoid the criticism that too much law is aimed at the 'big money' cases.

'The judges will have these worked examples too, and we hope they will be able to discuss them with the litigants to assist them find a fair solution to their own problems.'

In March, the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) published research on the difficulties LiPs face from going to court alone.

The experience was found to exacerbate people's physical and mental health, strain people's working lives, negatively affect finances, and put pressure on their relationships with friends and family.

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Divorce Courts & Judiciary