In any industry it is essential to keep up to date with developments and advising on issues on divorce is no different.
This month we have seen the introduction of a new form of divorce petition and we all remain watching the case of Owens and Owens in the London courts considering the issue of unreasonable behaviour as a basis for divorce. I have referred to this in a previous article.
We have now had a reported case from the Court of Appeal (Hart v Hart) where despite all the progress towards an equal division of assets on divorce made over the past few years, the court have dismissed Mrs Hart’s claim for one half of the marital assets after 23 years of marriage.
It is often the case in a short marriage that one spouse will seek to argue that the wealth he/she had built up prior to the marriage should be treated differently to those assets which the parties have acquired during their marriage. Where there is more than enough assets to meet both spouse’s financial needs (eg for housing and an income) then such argument is often successful.
However where the case of Hart and Hart departs from the normal approach is that after 23 years of marriage a court would not usually consider the pre marital assets of such importance in the process of division.
It is right to assume that after that length of marriage it would be difficult to even establish what assets each spouse brought to the marriage. In the case of Hart v Hart it is reported that Mr Hart failed to fully set out his case in court and that the Judge had difficulty in assessing what assets were in place prior to the marriage as distinct from those built up during the marriage. Given that further detail, the outcome of the case appears even more bizarre.
Bizarre or not, any judgement like this given by the Court of Appeal is going to have a bearing on how divorce cases are approached in the future. This case will provide yet another argument in the armoury of those spouses wishing to avoid an equal division of assets on divorce.
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