Who gets what in a divorce?

04 Mar 2022

One gets what is necessary to meet ones needs in the vast majority of cases. It is that simple.

Therein lies the shortest and most straightforward lawyer’s answer perhaps in legal history.

The matter becomes more technical when people differ on what constitutes “needs”. Generally, the greater the number of children, the longer the marriage, and the greater the difference in earning capacity, then the greater the needs.

Before determining any of the foregoing, it is absolutely essential that there is – what lawyers will repeat as often as a broken record – “full and frank disclosure of your financial circumstances”.

For example, the word “equality” may mean two entirely separate things to two different people. The question is, equality of what? However, if there is full and frank disclosure, then before reaching a specific agreement, there would need to be an agreed schedule of assets that forms the basis of the negotiations. All too often people reach what they sometimes sincerely believe is an agreement, only to find that one party conveniently took the view that their pension didn’t form part of the equality because “it’s mine”. This isn’t the case.

It is essential to get those “basics” right and therefore, full and frank disclosure is an unavoidable and wholly compulsory part of the process – whether that process takes place in or out of court. Happily, the courts have devised their own document for each individual to fill out with prescribed sections of rather searching questions. Once these have been completed, we then have an agreed figure on which to base all future negotiations.

Equality (now that we are agreed as to what equality is) is only the starting point. An example of a typical “classic” case for equality might be where a young couple have two similar incomes, no children and have had a relatively short marriage. But then it might only be equality of capital growth of those assets that were acquired during the marriage and not equality of everything. However, where the marriage might have been seven plus years and/or where there are children, resulting in unequal earning capacity, then there will be a ready departure from the principle of “equality”.

Contrary to what you might read in the newspapers, there is complete logic to this. The courts are striving to ensure that individuals “needs” are met. They like settlements that are sensible and sustainable. We all might like to keep the family home and worry about the bills the following month. However, judges do not operate that way – they hate having people come back to court on appeal and indicate that they hadn’t budgeted properly. Sustainable may be “boring” but it is enduring, and when we are effectively dividing one home into two, there is an inescapable element of budgeting to be engaged in.

In summary, if we take anything from this article, just remember the two key points “full and frank disclosure” and “needs” – at least in the vast majority of cases.

But what about those that do not fall in to the “vast majority” category. The factors that are taken into account in all cases are known as the 'Section 25 Matrimonial Causes Act factors'. If you are one of the relatively lucky few whose needs can easily be met and have sufficient wealth to persuade the court that your “lifestyle” should be maintained to a particular standard, then that will also be a factor, if not indeed one of the overriding factors.

When considering Section 25 factors, you must also have regard to the fact that judges have considerable discretion, but they will take into account your income and earning capacity, as well as all your resources, your needs, standard of living, age, any disability, contributions, and in extreme cases, conduct.

Clearly, the courts have a considerable amount of freedom to tailor any order very much to your own personal circumstances.

It is very easy to take one element of this area of law out of context, particularly when creating a headline. However, the reality of court decisions are rather more nuanced.

For further advice and information, or if we can be of assistance regarding any other matrimonial or family matter, please contact our family team.
 

Further reading

Business and divorce: what to know if going into business with your spouse

Blog
30/01/2023
When going into business with a spouse, you do so without expecting to divorce. However, it is wise to consider this from the outset and plan for it, just in case
Read more Read

Pre-Nuptial Agreements: Part 1 – to have or not to have?

Blog
27/01/2023
Should you get a Pre-Nuptial Agreement? Nigel Winter discusses the answer to this question in the first of a series of blogs on the subject
Read more Read

US Attorney General Merrick Garland files Anti-Trust Suit against Google

Blog
25/01/2023
The tech giant is accused of buying up competitors. Google has stated that it does not hold a monopoly in the relevant market
Read more Read

DMH Stallard advises CGR on the acquisition of John Binns & Sons Ltd

Blog, News & PR
25/01/2023
“JB Springs is a fantastic opportunity for CGR to establish a first base in the UK. DMH Stallard played a key role helping us to close the deal.”
Read more Read
  • Brighton - Jubilee St

    1 Jubilee Street

    Brighton

    East Sussex

    BN1 1GE

  • Brighton - Old Steine

    47 Old Steine

    Brighton

    East Sussex

    BN1 1NW

  • Gatwick

    Griffin House

    135 High Street

    Crawley

    West Sussex

    RH10 1DQ

  • Guildford

    Wonersh House

    The Guildway

    Old Portsmouth Road

    Guildford

    Surrey

    GU3 1LR

  • Hassocks

    32 Keymer Road

    Hassocks

    West Sussex

    BN6 8AL

  • Horsham

    Ridgeland House

    15 Carfax

    Horsham

    West Sussex

    RH12 1DY

  • London

    6 New Street Square

    New Fetter Lane

    London

    EC4A 3BF

  • Make an enquiry

    Make an enquiry

    Message

    Or head to our Contact us page