It is easy to understand that when a relationship comes to an end, the financial input of the other spouse may become a significant focus in the divorce. However, in the majority of divorces, arguments about financial contributions rarely result in a different financial outcome.
The reason for this is simple. If the Court were to make its decisions by undertaking a forensic financial analysis of the financial contributions made by each party, then it would almost certainly result in the lower earning party (and often the primary carer of any children) being disadvantaged after the divorce. Furthermore, it would be ignoring the contributions made by the lower earner in their work (which may require similar working hours but may not be as lucrative) or in terms of their care of any children.
In addition to the above, most married couples will have discussed their living and work arrangements throughout their relationship and therefore using these joint decisions against the other spouse in divorce is rarely appropriate. This is because the Court and the current law views married couples as a partnership, even where their individual financial positions are poles apart.
The fact is that the court must look at the parties’ and any children’s needs when the finances are being considered in divorce proceedings. If the lower earning party has little or no mortgage capacity as well as little prospect of increasing their income, then the court will take this into account when making a decision. This may result in that party receiving more of the matrimonial capital and/or on-going maintenance in order to assist them (and the children) in rehousing and meeting their outgoings in the future. Any lack of, or limited, financial contribution made by that party into the marriage is unlikely to change the court’s approach.
What the court will not do is apply punitive measures by ordering that the lower earning party should receive less of the capital or no/less maintenance with which to meet their needs. Obviously, if there is adequate money to meet needs with a surplus remaining then the court may well consider how the surplus should be divided and it may be in favour of the party who has contributed more financially into the marriage. However, in the vast majority of cases there are insufficient funds to leave a surplus after meeting needs alone and, as such, the court will not usually entertain arguments about unequal contributions into the marriage.
There are, of course, exceptions to the above, such as where there has been a very short marriage or where one party has brought all, or the vast majority of, the capital into the marriage. However, even then, there will have to be sufficient funds available to meet needs before the Court will consider leaving the wealthier spouse with more of the money.
If you would like to discuss this issue or any other family related matter, then please contact our Family team to make an appointment.
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