Financial Entitlement In Short Marriages

This article was authored by Hannah McCrindle.

When a marriage has been short, contributions are more likely to be relevant in the context of determining the division of assets and determining what is and what is not matrimonial property. The court's duty to consider clean break orders under S.25A(1) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 will also be of significance. It is worth noting that where the marriage is short, but the parties have had children, the court will adopt a different approach to the situation where the marriage was short but there are no children.

Sharp v Sharp [2017] EWCA Civ 408

The parties were married for six years and had no children. The parties had co-habited for 18 months prior to getting married. The marriage was described at first instance as "not so desperately short from cohabitation to separation as some, but still by no means lengthy". In the first instance, the court considered that the matrimonial assets should be subject to the equal sharing principle. This was despite the fact that the parties contributed in very different proportions. The Court of Appeal reduced the husband's award. The court concluded that "a fringe of cases may lie outside the equal sharing principle" but only where factors such as length of marriage, lack of children, careers and/or separate finances justify such a departure.

The wife's appeal was allowed on the following grounds:

  1. The automatic application of the equal sharing principle unless the parties had entered into a prenuptial agreement was "unsustainable and not supported by any authority".

  2. The majority in Miller held that the law should entertain the possibility for departure from equal sharing where there are unilateral assets in a short marriage, dual-income case.

  3. The obiter comments in Charman, preferring the approach of Lord Nicholls, was not a determinative statement of the law.

  4. The manner in which the parties arranged their finances was more than sufficient to establish that the wife maintained her capital separately, in a manner compatible with that described by Baroness Hale in Miller.

FF v KF [2017] EWHC 1093 (Fam)

The parties were married less than two years, but there were substantial assets available. The husband appealed an order that awarded the wife GBP 4.5 million. The Court of Appeal held that the judge at first instance was right to take into account the wife's immediate capital needs and her future quotidian need. This was well within his...

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