A recent ruling in a Family Division case in Swansea has raised eyebrows, as High Court judge Mr Justice Mostyn took into account a new and undisclosed relationship when determining the size of the wife’s divorce settlement.
But in this instance, it was not an undisclosed relationship on the part of the husband that led to him adjusting the size of the payout, but a new relationship entered into by the wife after the couple separated, but before the financial disputes had been resolved.
The situation was made more complex by the pair’s financial situation: neither had sizeable incomes, with the husband having almost no income at all, while the wife was a hard-working journalist; the pair had an adopted child together; and the husband had several millions in family inheritance.
As a result, you might expect his former wife to receive a large chunk of this inheritance on the couple’s separation, but Justice Mostyn saw things differently.
Instead, he ruled that the wife’s new relationship, discovered through investigations by her former husband’s legal team, had put a “fly in the ointment” for his calculations.
He explained in a written ruling that although the relationship was new, entered into after the divorce, and could not be guaranteed to last forever – and indeed, the wife said she had no intentions to cohabit with her new partner – it still had a material effect on the case.
As a result, he awarded around £250,000 to the wife, despite conceding that this would not be enough to support her over the long term, if her new relationship were to collapse.
The case has raised criticism within the legal profession, but it serves as a reminder that all of a spouse’s circumstances can have a material impact on financial awards during divorce proceedings – making it important to be careful about entering into any kind of relationship that might be seen as financially supportive.