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Family Law

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02 AUG 2012

White v White and co: the not-so-well-off and a 'balance of needs'

Chris Barton
Professor, a Vice-President of the Family Mediators Association and Academic Door Tenant, Regent Chambers

Grenville Jay
Barrister, Regent Chambers

This article notes that this century's reported financial remedies cases deal overwhelmingly with that small minority of divorces where there is a surplus over needs. It questions the extent to which the court-made law in those cases, which adds to the matters mentioned in s 25(2) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, have relevance to less well-off families on divorce. We then assess some of the very few recent reports involving the latter, notably A v L (Departure from Equality: Needs) [2011] EWHC 3150, [2012] 1 FLR 985, Fallon v Fallon [2008] EWCA Civ 1653, [2010] 1 FLR 910, and KSO v MJO, JMO and PSO Intervening [2008] EWHC 3031 (Fam), [2009] 1 FLR 1036. We argue that the current call for reform of what are now called ‘financial remedy' cases is more concerned with the London divorce tourists rather than ordinary people nationwide. Finally, it is suggested that more reports of ordinary cases, were they available, would allow the concept of need to be explored judicially and eliminate local differences. A v L was reported because those who litigate in the Principal Registry have the privilege of an appeal to the high court. If this could be extended to county court litigants there would be many more such reports.

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