In a recent Court of Appeal Judgment, the decision was upheld to award the Wife the entirety of the matrimonial assets valued at £550,000 on the basis that the Husband had “abdicated responsibility” for her and his children. The couple married in 2002 and had two children before separation in 2011 when the Husband, an anaesthetist, moved to Bahrain and has since not paid anything to his Wife for her or their children.
The Court’s approach to dealing with ancillary relief applications has come a long way. The Landmark ruling in recent years was the case of White v White (2000). In previous cases the court’s approach was that upon the breakdown of the marriage the financially weaker party was to have their reasonable requirements met and nothing further. In the White case, the House of Lords rejected this idea and instead, allows a judge in each case to weigh up the individual facts against the eight factors in s25 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, each having equal importance:-
(a)the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources;
(b)the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities of each of the parties;
(c)the standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage;
(d)the age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage;
(e)any physical or mental disability of either of the parties to the marriage;
(f)the contributions which each of the parties has made or is likely in the foreseeable future to make to the welfare of the family;
(g)the conduct of each of the parties;
(h)the value to each of the parties to the marriage of any benefit which, by reason of the dissolution or annulment of the marriage, that party will lose the chance of acquiring.
This approach was expanded in the cases of Miller v Miller and McFarlane v McFarlane which stated financial awards are to be made on the principle of ‘needs, compensation and sharing’. An equal division of assets would only be made once the Court was satisfied that both party’s needs (including needs for children) had been met.
In the above example, the Court of Appeal has taken the decision that in consideration of the factors under s25 Matrimonial Causes Act, the Wife’s needs in relation to her and the children (together perhaps, with a degree of compensation as a result of the Husband’s behaviour) would require the entirety of the matrimonial assets. The Husband’s needs could be met on an ongoing basis due to his significant salary.
There can be numerous factors to be taken into consideration when reaching a financial settlement; property, salaries, pensions and liabilities can all have a significant effect and often as a result, a 50/50 division is not always fair or reasonable.
For more information contact the AWB Charlesworth Family law team on Skipton 01756 793333 Keighley 01535 613678 firstname.lastname@example.org
Family Law Solicitor
Tel: 01756 692 877