New Year Divorce?

January 2016

New Year Divorce?

Family lawyers receive more enquiries for divorce at the beginning of January than at any other time of the year.

Figures from the Office for national Statistics show that despite the recent rise in the number of marriages, the divorce rates are at their lowest for 40 years.  This is a different picture for older people. Over 60,000 people that divorced in 2013 from England and Wales were over 50, a rise of 11per cent.

Divorce for younger couples has slowed down. The Law Society has reported a rise in enquiries for pre-nuptial agreements, with commentators suggesting it is being driven by parents who are investing in housing to enable their children to get on the property ladder, whilst wanting to protect family money against any future marriage breakdown.  

Family law expert and Head of the Family Department at Parrott & Coales LLP, Richard Sauvain, explained:  “There is probably less for older couples to worry about in relation to the impact of divorce on children. They are more likely to be asset-rich and dividing finances will be their main cause for concern.”

He added: “Divorce is a difficult decision for any couple. It is important they consider children first and avoid apportioning blame as they go through the process.  Mediation can help to focus on achieving the best outcome.  It may be necessary to set out unreasonable behaviour in the divorce petition, but the Courts are generally not interested in the causes of the marriage breakdown when it comes to dividing family finances.” 

The exception to this is when family law judges are obliged to take into account 'gross and obvious' conduct that 'in the opinion of the Court would be inequitable to disregard'.  A recent case of Vaughan v Vaughan in 2007, saw the Court add back sums spent recklessly by the husband on gambling after the couple separated.  More recently, in US v SR (2014) when the High Court held that where a spouse has recklessly disposed of assets after separation they cannot claim as great a share of what remains, if there is clear evidence of so-called ‘wanton dissipation’. 

In the 2015 case of MAP v MFP the wife argued that £1.5m should be added back as a result of the husband's reckless and wanton expenditure on cocaine, prostitutes, alcohol and therapy after their separation.  The judge disagreed saying that while the expenditure may have been morally culpable and irresponsible, it had not been deliberate or wanton dissipation. 

Web site content note: 

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.


Richard Sauvain

Tel:  01296 318502