A feature that arises increasingly in family law financial settlements is the division of assets between separating couples and the court’s approach when dividing them 

One of the factors the court needs to take into account is the duration of the marriage and, whilst in most cases the starting point is an equal division of the assets, the court’s approach may well change where the marriage was of short duration.

This issue was recently explored by the Family Court in the case of E v L [2021] EWFC 60. upon which Panay Vassiliou of Kangs Solicitors now comments.

Our family law solicitors are experienced in representing clients in relation to divorce and financial settlement proceedings.

Our family law team can be contacted for an initial no obligation discussion at any of our offices detailed below:

The Circumstances | Kangs Family Law Solicitors

  • The husband, aged sixty-six, and the wife, aged sixty-one, commenced their relationship in December 2015 and married in June 2017.
  • The wife claimed that the parties started cohabitation in January 2016 whilst the husband claimed that there had been no cohabitation before the marriage.
  • The wife claimed the parties separated in December 2019 but the husband asserted that the parties separated in October 2019. 
  • In March 2020, the wife started divorce proceedings and made an application for financial remedy.
  • The total of the matrimonial assets was £11 million and the wife claimed one half i.e. £5.5 million. The husband maintained that his wife should receive £600,000 upon the basis that the marriage was short and childless.

Issues Considered by the Court | Kangs Divorce Solicitors

The court considered the following issues.

  • Childless Marriage

The court was reluctant to evaluate the quality of the marriage and the reasons why it was childless upon the basis that this was no reason for a departure from equality, when dividing assets.

  • Duration of the Marriage

The court made it clear that the division of the assets would be different in the case of a short marriage to that of a longer marriage.

However, there may arise a possible exception in respect of non-family assets generated by one spouse alone during a short marriage, where those assets had been kept separate and where both spouses had been financially independent.

It would be extremely rare for the court to consider the unequal sharing of matrimonial property earned in a short marriage.

  • Method of calculation of lump sum

When considering the relevant period for calculation, the court stated that, save in cases where there had been delay between the separation and the date of the final hearing, the end date for the purposes of the calculation should be the date of the final hearing.

However, where ‘new assets’ had been generated from the date of separation, such as earnings, the court would not allow a post separation bonus to be classed as a non-matrimonial asset.

In this instance, the court accepted the wife’s contention that co-habitation commenced in January 2016, decided that the end point for its calculations would be the final hearing in June 2021 and that the matrimonial assets should be valued for that period. 

The matrimonial assets would be divided equally for that period providing the wife with an award of £1,514,769.

It is important to point out that duration of marriage is just one of many factors to which the court must have regard to. The court is also required to give first consideration to the needs of any child(ren) of the marriage and the discrete circumstances of each case.

How to Contact Us | Kangs Family Law Solicitors

We appreciate that many relationship breakdowns lead to a period of considerable stress and anxiety, and particularly so when financial issues also need to be agreed between the separating parties.

Our team will work proactively with you in an effort to secure an early favourable financial settlement whenever possible.

We welcome new enquiries by telephone or email.

The Kangs Family Law Solicitors Team is available to meet at our offices in London, Birmingham or Manchester.

Alternatively, we are happy to arrange an initial no obligation meeting via telephone or video conferencing.

For initial enquires please contact:

Panay Vassiliou
020 7936 6396 | 0121 449 9888

Helen Holder
0121 449 9888 | 0161 817 5020