Divorce, New Partners and 'Needs'

Marriages break down for many different reasons including one party having formed a new relationship.  Similarly, it’s not unusual for new relationships to be formed during the time it takes for divorce proceedings and financial matters to be concluded.

When the court considers what is an appropriate financial settlement there’s a host of factors which must be considered.  These are set out in section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and includes the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities that each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future.

“Needs” includes capital, income and needs in retirement.  These needs are subjective taking into account other factors including the existence of dependent children, the length of the marriage, the age and health of the respective parties and the lifestyle during the marriage.

So how does the existence of a new partner affect these needs?

In short – it can but may not!

In the most recent decision regarding this topic – the case of Hart v Hart [2016 EWCA Civ 497] - the parties were unable to agree settlement terms and the matter was therefore left to the court to decide and make an appropriate order.  After hearing evidence from both parties, the judge concluded the wife had been cohabiting with her new partner for a number of years but this did not diminish her needs.

Mr Hart appealed the decision on several grounds including an argument that the judge was wrong in concluding that his wife’s cohabitation was not a reason to reduce her needs.  That part of Mr Hart’s application was dismissed the court finding that matters of relationships were matters of fact and the trial judge was entitled to have regard to the whole evidence.

If you would like further information and advice then please contact Elizabeth Bettes on 0118 9575337 (Reading office) or Sandra Marshall on 01344 887510 (Windsor office).

Published on 13/06/2016

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