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THE APPLICATION OF THE PRA 1984 AND EQUITY'S ROLE WITHIN A LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK

Whilst the DFRA 1984, and now the PRA 1984, provide the courts with the discretion to make orders for adjustment where it seems 'just and equitable', much debate has emerged regarding the appropriate test for the exercise of the courts' discretion.V This raises three issues. The first touches on the question of the exact scope of the courts' discretion under the Act. The second is the principles underpinning the exercise of that discretion. The third focuses on the relationship between equitable principles and the courts' discretion. The case law evinces some consensus on certain key aspects of the courts' discretion under s 20(1). There is, for example, a general acceptance of the four-stage process established by Powell J in D v McA48 for determining whether an order for adjustment should be made. The first step is to identify and value the assets of the parties. The next is to determine whether contributions like those referred to in s 20(1)(a) and (b) have been made by each of the parties. Thirdly, the court has to determine whether the claimant's contributions have already been sufficiently recognised and compensated for during the relationship. Finally, the court has to decide what order should be made so that the claimant's contributions will be sufficiently recognised and compensated.