Mike's Minute: The nightmarish changes proposed for divorce laws

Author
Mike Hosking,
Section
Video,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 24 July 2019, 9:31AM

COMMENT:

The Law Commission has produced its final report into how the courts should be handling martial disputes. They've previously put forward a bunch of recommendations.

The premise of all this is the law is from 1976 and a lot has changed, and with that few of us would disagree.

READ MORE: End of the 50-50 split? Govt eyes big divorce law shakeup

Houses could be dealt with very differently. Currently it's generally split down the middle, the recommendation is if you brought the place into the relationship it remains yours, only the increase in value is split. The obvious question is if the value has tanked, does one pay the other for the loss?

It also suggests - and this is where all of this is a nightmare no matter how new or old the laws are, and no matter how much we may or may not have changed - the best interests of the children should be dealt with, whatever that means. Intent is one thing, reality is another.

Then we get to perhaps the most interesting and potentially dangerous of the proposed changes: Family Income Sharing Agreements. The idea is when you split, the person without work or perhaps the lower income can collect a slice of the other partner's income for a period of time post the divorce.

This is a minefield.

The whole argument around people giving up stuff has always bothered me. If we accept a marriage is a partnership, and an agreed partnership, the decisions made within that partnership are yours to own. And that would include if one person, and this will be the most common example, gave up their job or career to raise kids.

Now if you want to do that, that's your call. It's presumably agreed mutually. Why that then ends up in court as some sort of major and unfair sacrifice seems, to a degree, an invented problem.

If you didn't want to do it, don't.

What are the inherent risks? Your career is set back, you might have trouble re-entering the workforce. Those are things then to weigh up, they're your responsibility. And in this day and age of equality, there are more men who make the call, split their time, their work, their hours and locations of work.

So it will apply as much to the blokes as to the ladies so presumably it's less and less of a gender issue.

Either way calls within a marriage are two-way streets. To agree to one thing, then argue its egregious and expect a payout seems a bit rich. But there you go, it might well be the way of the future.

Which leads you to wonder, is any of this updated at all? Or when you're dealing with acrimonious and aggrieved parties - one often out to get the other - are we really any different to 1976?

And will ending up in court remain the slow, tortuous nightmare it's always been?

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