The lion’s share; fair?

Jane Morris gave up her career after she and her husband decided that she should stay at home and care for their three children. Her husband, Peter Morris, continued in his role as the breadwinner, earning a high salary. The parties lived an extravagant lifestyle, which continued following their separation in 2013.

By the time the case came before the divorce court, the parties’ assets had reduced to £560,000. The judge decided that Mrs Morris needed adequate provision because sacrificing her career had left her with a low earning capacity. He awarded her almost £500,000, leaving Mr Morris with £66,000. Mr Morris was also ordered to pay £77,000 in unpaid maintenance, effectively leaving him with nothing.  He is set to appeal the court’s ruling.

Whilst this case hit the headlines as being unfair, it can be argued that, in reality, it represents nothing new. Judges have very wide discretion in deciding divorce cases, taking into account many factors. This includes the income and earning capacity that each party has as well as their financial needs, the age of the parties and the duration of the marriage and the contributions which each party has made, including any contribution by looking after the home, or caring for the family. The court’s first consideration will be given to the welfare of minor children.

In this case the judge had regard to the fact that Mrs Morris had limited earning capacity at age 52 after being out of the workplace for 20 years, whereas Mr Morris enjoyed a high income, which would continue into the future, and a bigger pension provision.

This case further highlights that all divorce cases are decided by the courts on their particular facts. If you would like to discuss this or your situation generally, please contact a member of our Family team.

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