Family Groups - women - fear for women's divorce rights
Almost a third of British marriages break up Barristers fear
an attempt to harmonise European divorce laws could upset
the property rights of British wives on divorce. They fear
EU proposals expected next year could turn the clock back
for women's rights by 30 years. This is because rules on the
division of property in most EU member states can be less
favourable to wives. In contrast, a series of recent landmark
judgements has increased the rights of wives in the UK.
Pro-wife The European Commission is expected to publish a
green paper on matrimonial property rights next year. In the
UK, women have won significant rights to more equal divorce
settlements in recent decades. Under the current EU constitution,
the UK currently has the right to opt out of proposals such
as these. But there is a concern at the Family Law Bar Association
that the UK could easily lose out in any proposals, because
its system is so different from most other European countries.
Actual harmonisation is some way off
Charlotte Bradley, SFLA
Since the early 1970s women have had a right to make a claim
on property, even if they have not had any formal legal title
on the home during the marriage.
And, more recently, a number of landmark judgements have led
to greater recognition of a wife's contribution to her husband's
business and working life in financial settlements.
In contrast, there are no facilities to vary ownership of
property on divorce in many other European countries. For
example, courts tend to split property based on "who
owns what", rather than what is fair and who needs greater
In the UK, the system is based on broad concepts of "need"
and "fairness" rather than who is named on the property
The Solicitors' Family Law Association said women should not
be concerned in the short-term.
Charlotte Bradley, Chair, SFLA International Committee, told
BBC News Online: "The European Commission wants to see
greater moves towards harmonisation of European family law
systems but actual harmonisation is some way off.
"This would be an incredibly complex task given the huge
variation in domestic laws throughout the EU. We will be keeping
a close eye on developments."