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Why you should Divorce Before starting A New Relationship!

10th October 2014

A recent High Court decision of Mr Justice Mostyn shed light on how Courts may in the future deal with new relationships entered into after the marriage breaks down but before the financial settlement is made.

Both parties were in their forties, the husband came from “a distinguished Welsh family”, while the wife worked as a journalist. The husband’s family were wealthy land owners and although the husband’s financial position was secure, few assets were in his own name. The marriage lasted roughly nine years and the couple had adopted two children. Both children lived with the husband following the breakdown in the marriage.

After separating in 2012, in 2013 the wife started a new relationship, which had been in existence for only nine months at the trial date. Mr Justice Mostyn described the situation as follows:

relationships like this always are a significant fly in the ointment in the assessment of need. One cannot make assumptions, it is not full blown cohabitation akin to marriage, that it will grow into that cannot be assumed”.

On paper at least the wife’s assets appeared to exceed those of the husband, not withstanding the substantial wealth available to him via his family.

These assets had been available to the husband throughout the marriage and so to some extent could be taken into account despite the fact that they were not directly in his own name.  Equally, the wife was entitled to retain two properties which she had acquired in her sole name before the date of the marriage.

However, the Judge made it clear that he had to strike a balance between, on the one hand meeting the needs of the wife, and on the other taking account of the fact that she may shortly cohabit.  He assessed the award of £250,000.00 as being sufficient together with the other assets in the wife’s name to meet her needs, making it clear that the sum may have been higher were it not for the new relationship. Note this was not a case in which the wife had any income claim for maintenance against the husband.

So the issue here is whether or not Courts will take into account new relationships which involve the potential for cohabitation and may be seen as “fledgling”, that is of short duration at the time of time of the Court hearing.

Financial settlements on divorce always involve a huge amount of discretion and no two cases are ever the same. However, if the judiciary shows a willingness to embrace this idea it could have a significant impact on how Courts deal with these cases.

The lesson perhaps is simple; resolve your financial settlement sooner rather than later as delay inevitably creates situations which may complicate the financial settlement and arrangements between parties. If you are thinking about or going through a divorce and you are worried about this, please get in contact with us.  George Ide LLP is a leading firm of divorce solicitors working in West Sussex.  You can contact Jim Richards on 01243 812428 or email Jim at james.richards@georgeide.co.uk.

Family Law, George Ide
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