Division Of Assets: Is Divorce Law In A State Of Flux?

Year Published: 2017

In any industry it is essential to keep up to date with developments and advising on divorce issues, such as the division of assets, 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.

What’s happening in the courts?                                          

We have now had a reported case from the Court of Appeal, Hart v Hart, where despite all the progress over the past few years towards an equal division of assets in their divorce, 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 person 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 couple have acquired during their marriage. Where there is more than enough assets to meet each person’s financial needs (e.g. for housing and an income) then such argument is often successful.

However, where the case of Hart v Hart differs from the normal approach is that after 23 years of marriage a court would not usually consider the pre-marital assets of such importance when dividing assets.

It is right to assume that after that length of marriage it would be difficult to establish what assets each person 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 which assets were in place prior to the marriage and which were built up during the marriage. Given that further detail, the outcome of the case appears even more bizarre.

What does this mean for the division of assets in future divorce cases?

Bizarre or not, any judgement like this from 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 people wishing to avoid an equal division of assets in a divorce.

For more information on the division of assets in a divorce, please contact our Family Law team on 0161 475 776.

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