The ultimate aim of ancillary relief is to achieve a fair outcome.
In the case of Miller v Miller and McFarlane v McFarlane  UKHL 24 the House of Lords identified three ‘strands’ of fairness, namely needs (of the parties and their children), compensation (of relationship-generated disadvantages) and sharing (of assets). Since in many, if not most, cases the needs exceed the assets, needs will often be the determining factor and therefore in many cases the other ‘strands’ of fairness do not play an important role, or indeed any role at all.
That said, in the same case the lead speeches seemed to indicate that certain groups of assets (particularly pre-marital, inherited and assets received as gift, or ‘non-matrimonial assets’) should be treated differently from the ‘fruits of joint labour’ and the matrimonial home with regard to the sharing upon divorce. But it was also held that the longer the relationship lasted, the less important that distinction should be.
We have recently seen in the High Court a case where a woman who “sacrificed” her career as a solicitor so she could look after her children won compensation on top of an equal share of the family’s wealth after her divorce.
The ruling could have implications for other divorce cases in which one partner has stepped back from their career for the good of the family.
In this case, the Cambridge graduate was embroiled in a fight over cash with her millionaire husband, who is also a solicitor, after the breakdown of their marriage.
A judge has decided the pair, who were married for about a decade and have two children, should split assets of nearly £10 million equally but that the woman should get another £400,000 in compensation for curtailing her legal career.
Mr Justice Moor said there had been “relationship-generated disadvantage” as the husband was still able to enjoy a “stellar” career.
“[The woman] viewed herself as the parent who would take primary responsibility for the children,” he said. “The husband’s career took precedence. I accept that it is unusual to find significant relationship-generated disadvantage that may lead to a claim for compensation but I am clear that this is one such case.
“I have come to the conclusion that an appropriate sum to award for relationship-generated disadvantage, over and above her half share of the assets, is the sum of £400,000.”
In our view such awards will remain rare but it is always worth exploring your circumstances with your lawyer.
For information on Ancillary Relief or Divorce in general why not contact one of Alexander JLO’s expert Divorce lawyers to see what we can do for you?