The Law Commission for England and Wales has published proposals, which could see those who fail to pay divorce settlements receive penalties including driving bans and passport confiscations.
At the moment, the only penalty available in the event of non-payment is a custodial sentence. However, as a criminal standard of proof is required i.e. beyond all reasonable doubt, this penalty is rarely successfully implemented.
The Commission estimates that there are approximately 4,200 enforcement cases on average each year and that £15m to £20m of debts currently go unrecovered.
Professor Nicholas Hopkins, law commissioner for property, family and trust law in England and Wales, said: “The current law for the enforcement of family financial orders is unnecessarily complicated and often ineffective. These problems cause real hardship for the individuals involved.
“Judges need the necessary powers to ensure that those who can pay, but choose not to, comply with court orders.”
Amongst other proposals made by the Commission are additional powers for courts to identify the full extent of the assets of divorcees through access to bank accounts and HM Revenue & Customs records.
The Commission’s recommendations are now with Justice Secretary Liz Truss to decide whether they should be provided for in new legislation.