The House of Lords recently dealt with two cases affecting financial settlement within divorce proceedings.
It was decided, in the first, that the cause of the breakdown of the marriage should not generally be relevant in reaching financial settlement. There may, however, be an exception where a person’s conduct was so exceptional that it would be unfair to ignore it, for example, where a husband had been convicted of the attempted murder of his wife.
It was also stated that, where a marriage was short-lived and childless, each party should generally be credited with wealth brought into the marriage. Wealth generated during the marriage should normally be divided equally. Exceptions to this rule will not be infrequent.
The second case appeared to introduce a new concept within divorce settlement – compensation.
When considering what a fair financial settlement might be, the court must look at a number of factors, including the needs of the husband, the wife and any children, the resources available and whether the husband or the wife should receive compensation.
Compensation will usually only be considered where a spouse has sacrificed significant career opportunities to become a ‘stay at home’ parent, but again there will be exceptions.
In this case, the wife was a solicitor in London, earning a salary similar to that of her husband until they agreed that, after the birth of their second child, she would give up work.