Divorces may be settled by simple new formula

Divorce settlements should be settled according to a mathematical formula to avoid costly and time-consuming court battles over couples' assets, a major review has recommended.

Under proposals from the Law Commission, husbands and wives could calculate how much money they would receive in a settlement using the formula by dividing up assets depending on income and on how long they have been married.

The review aims to clarify "uncertain and inconsistent" divorce law while lowering costs and keep cases from court. New guidance will be provided online. Under the current law in England and Wales, when separating couples are unable to reach an agreement on how to divide their assets, it falls to a judge to make orders.

The Law Commission has also said family homes should be left out of divorce settlements if they were inherited or acquired before marriage.

The Commission consultation, due to form a report to ministers next year, states that, at the moment, spouses are unable to predict what support they could receive, or may have to pay, in future.

The new consultation is published today and claims there is a "lack of legal clarity" about the definition of needs.

A possible solution raised in the consultation is to follow mathematical formula, similar to those used in Canada since 2005, that would calculate support due, based on the length of the relations and the difference between the spouses' incomes.

"The Government will consider the recommendations of the Law Commission when its report on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements is published," said a Ministry of Justice spokesman last night.