In coming to a judgement of financial remedy proceedings between divorcing couples, the court has to consider a number of factors, which include the length of the marriage and any prior period of seamless cohabitation, the needs of the parties and any minor children, the age of the parties, contributions to the marriage, and on occasion lifestyle, and in exceptional circumstances conduct.
The Judge has a wide discretion as to how he or she deals with the parties’ assets but in a short childless marriage of under two years, it is commonly considered that the court’s first consideration would be to return the parties to the position they were in prior to the marriage. In some cases where one party has assets and the other does not, there may be some form of financial award to meet the financially weaker parties short term needs.
The court recently looked at the ‘short childless marriage’ scenario.
In this case, the parties were both aged 57 and lived together from December 2019 They married in January 2020 but separated in June 2020.
The wife threatened to issue injunctive proceedings to stop the husband from selling some or all of his share options which subsequently caused him to lose millions of dollars.
The court determined that the husband had assets, excluding the share options, of £10.9 million and the wife had £900,000.
The husband had other shares to the value of up to £6.2 million but these were found to not be matrimonial property. He had an income of $2,000,000 net compared to the wife’s nominal income which she had earnt prior to their meeting.
In assessing needs, the court found that the parties’ cohabitation whilst short had been in luxurious circumstances and that wife had been dependent upon the husband since October 2018.
The Judge ordered the husband to pay £750,000 to the wife which included money to pay off her mortgage and debts along with an additional sum representing three years maintenance.
This left the husband with over £10m.
“Given that the parties cohabited for just seven months prior to their separation and the fact that nothing had happened to change the wife’s financial position at the date cohabitation began, up until the date of the parties’ separation, the award to the wife could be considered to be overly generous.
It must be stressed however, that the court had a number of unusual factors to consider in this case, and circumstances can significantly vary from case to case.
It is unlikely that this decision will open the door for higher financial settlements by parties ending a short childless marriage, due to its unique circumstances.
Furthermore, as this decision was made by a Judge, and it has not been considered on appeal by the higher courts, there is no obligation upon the judiciary to follow the reasoning of the Judge in this particular case”.
If you wish to know more about financial remedy, please contact one of our specialist family lawyers who will be able to assist you further.
The above is meant to be only advice and is correct as of the time of posting. This article was written by Michael Sheville, Partner in the Family Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of August 2022.