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Short marriages and financial settlements

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The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 section 25 identifies some of the factors the Court must give regard to when determining the division of assets. These factors enable the Court to have a wide spectrum of discretion to ensure a fair distribution takes place when formulating financial settlements for divorce cases – consideration of the full circumstances must be given.

A marriage that lasts up to five years is commonly accepted as a short marriage, a marriage that lasts for ten years or more is commonly classed as a long marriage. It is important to bear in mind that the period of time that a couple have cohabited prior to the marriage may be included as part of the duration of the marriage. The point where a couple who are in a stable relationship start cohabiting can now be treated as the start date for the duration.

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 which continues to govern divorce law originally made the resolution of finances for short marriages very straightforward in that the the party who was less economically sound be awarded sufficient funds in order to enable them to re-establish themselves moving forward.

Things then became less straightforward in 2001 after the memorable case of White v White (2001) whereby the Court reached a decision based on the “Yardstick of Equality”. However, the ruling in this case did not mean that there would be an equal division. In Foster v Foster (2003) both parties where returned to their positions before they were married and anything gained during the marriage was shared equally. The wife received a higher proportion of the assets than her husband as her premarital contribution was far greater than his.

After the outcome of the case of Miller v Miller (2006) things changed again. After a two and three quarter year childless marriage Mrs Miller famously received a £5M settlement which was approximately 25% of her husband’s assets. This shocked many legal professionals and the general consensus was that the ruling was over generous. Since this case a broader approach has been adopted.

A clean break may be applied when there has been a short marriage with no children. The Court would require the couple to undertake a financial clean break order so that neither party to the divorce has any further financial interest in the other parties’ affairs. Usually where there are no children in the marriage the spouses are essentially expected to the leave the marriage with whatever they brought in. The Court will however give consideration to whether sacrifices have been made by either party, for example giving up their home or career, in which case it is likely that the Court with be more generous when awarding provisions to that spouse.

If you are looking to pursue divorce proceedings. We encourage you to contact Vines Legal in the first instance to discuss how we can support you through your separation process in the most cost-effective manner, call our office today on 01246 555 610

By Claire Clark on 7 Sep 2015, 11:00 AM

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