Jun 19

How Long is Short?

Posted by gowenstevensadmin on Monday 19th June 2017

How long is short?

The Court of Appeal handed down a significant Judgment in the case of Sharp v Sharp lastweek. The case is helpful to Family Lawyers who are considering how to advise their clients with reference to the financial settlement that may be awarded in light of what could be considered a short marriage.

As you may or may not know, the Courts do not use a scientific approach when considering how to divide matrimonial and non-matrimonial resources on a divorce.The starting point is some legislation dating from 1973 and the factors that are listed within that legislation. These refer to the Court’s consideration of the parties’ income, financial needs, standard of living, ages of the parties, any physical or mental disabilities of the parties and the contributions which they have made.As the legislation is quite old, case law is then used to determine how Judges are likely to interrupt the discretion regarding the powers that they have been awarded.The fact is this case gives us guidance on how the Courts interpret their powers.

Sharp v Sharp concerned a marriage which did not produce any children and which was fairly short.I have titled the article “How long is short” but the Courts did not actually give a definitive rule as to what is a short marriage however, much like a duck, you know one when you see one. Initially the husband was awarded an equal share of the matrimonial resources. The judge had said “no sufficient reason has been identified in this case for departing from equality of division”.

The wife was unhappy with the outcome so it was taken to the Court of Appeal.

There was a landmark case heard in 2001 named White v White in which the House of Lords established what has become a principle being that the matrimonial assets of divorcing couple should normally be shared between them on an equal basis.This case really considers whether that is sensible or fair in all marriages. Essentially the Courts agreed that in what can be considered a short marriage where there are no children it would not be fair and should not apply.

This case really highlights the need to consider entering into a Pre-Nuptial Agreement to protect your position when entering a marriage.

Although no-one wants to see a Pre-Nuptial Agreement as the death knell to a romantic relationship it should be seen as a security blanket which can be extremely helpful in assisting adults who want to protect the resources which they have built up say from family wealth or a previous relationship or their own endeavours when entering a marriage.

Although Pre-Nuptial Agreements were once considered to be against public policy since a landmark ruling, Courts are much more willing to allow couples to record their intentions in such an agreement, as long as it complies with certain formalities.

We can help you if you wish to have a Pre-Nuptial Agreement drafted or if your partner has presented you with one.

Please contact the team here at Gowen & Stevens if you have any further questions.