I am often asked whether the involvement of a third party in the breakdown of a marriage will affect the financial outcome of any divorce settlement.
The short answer is “No”. The Court’s approach in this country is not one of a penal approach, ie whatever the cause of the breakdown of the marriage, it is rare for the cause to affect the financial division of assets, award of maintenance or arrangements relating to the children.
That said, I should add that if there are relevant, serious circumstances which need to be taken into account then these can be put before the court but it is not usual.
Upon the breakdown of a marriage, a court (if parties cannot resolve their financial issues by agreement) would consider the assets and income available to the parties and divide these taking into account very many considerations. The circumstances of each relationship are unique which is why there is no one standard method for ‘division of assets’ and to a certain extent negotiation has a part to play.
However, it rare that one or other parties behaviour or even adultery would affect that division. There is no role for the court to find fault with one or other party and to “punish” that party upon financial settlement.
Similarly with ‘contact’ arrangements for any children of the relationship, a court will look to determine what is in the best interests of the children. The personal differences between the couple divorcing will not be taken into account by the court.
It is worth noting that if one or other party is cohabiting with a new partner at the time of financial settlement, it is possible that any claim for maintenance will involve additional considerations. That may be because the cohabitee is able to financially contribute to the claiming spouse’s outgoings (thus reducing his/her need for income from the other spouse). Alternatively if the paying spouse has a cohabitee sharing his/her outgoings (thus freeing up disposable income available to meet a maintenance claim) this will also be taken into account.
Any fault, either perceived or real, generally has no part in the settlement process and indeed seeking to apportion blame when it is not appropriate can often hinder proceedings and increase costs.
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