But, They Did Not Contribute Anything?

  • Family Law

I, like many other family solicitors, have lost count how many times I have heard a comment like the title of this blog when discussing the division of family finances as part of a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership.

It is hard to ignore that when a relationship comes to an end, one spouse may notice what they perceive to be flaws in the other party and the lifestyle and relationship they had together. Often, this can include finding flaws in the financial contributions or lack thereof made by the other party during the marriage or civil partnership. The reality, however, is that for most divorces or dissolution cases, arguments about contributions rarely succeed in changing the overall division of the couple’s finances.

The reason for this is simple. If the court were to make their decisions by undertaking a forensic analysis of the financial contributions made by each party, then it would almost certainly result in the lower-earning party (and often the primary carer of the children) being disadvantaged after the divorce. Furthermore, it would serve to ignore the contributions made by the lower earner from their work (which may require a not dissimilar investment of time when compared to the main breadwinner) or, as is often the case, dismisses the relevant contributions made by a child’s main caregiver. It is also my experience that many married couples agree or simply accept their living and working arrangements to accommodate children or a certain lifestyle. This is recognised by the courts who seldom accept that one spouse (most commonly the lower earner) has acted unilaterally by not working or working reduced hours.

The fact is that the court must look at the parties and any children’s needs when the finances are being considered in divorce or dissolution proceedings. If, as is common, the lower-earning party has little or no mortgage capacity as well as little prospect of increasing their income, then the court will take this into account when considering how to divide a couple’s finances. This may result in that party receiving more of the matrimonial capital and/or ongoing maintenance to assist them and any children to rehouse and to meet their outgoings in the future. Any lack of, or limited, financial contribution made by that party into the marriage is unlikely to change the court’s approach to their decision.

What the court will almost certainly not do is apply punitive measures by ordering that the lower-earning party should receive less of the capital and/or reduced or even no maintenance to meet their outgoings. Obviously, if there is adequate money to meet needs with a surplus remaining, then the court may well consider how the surplus should be divided which may be in favour of the party who has contributed more financially, thereby retaining that surplus, particularly if these assets are brought into the marriage by that party. However, for most cases there are insufficient funds to go beyond meeting the reasonable “needs” of the parties and any children, meaning that the court’s focus must be on meeting those needs with little room available to deviate from it. 

If you are contemplating a divorce or dissolution and you believe your financial contributions differ from your spouse or civil partner and should be considered or, alternatively, if your spouse or civil partner is suggesting that they should keep more from the family finances after a divorce or dissolution because of their financial contributions, then we at Summit Law would be happy to talk through your options with you. The family team at Summit Law has significant experience and expertise in dealing with the division of family finances on divorce or dissolution and will be able to help and support you by providing friendly and bespoke advice tailored to you, your case and your needs.

Our family team can be contacted on 020 7467 3980 or by e-mail at info@summitlawllp.co.uk.

Article Author

Matthew Thom

Matthew Thom