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15 MAR 2012


(Maidstone County Court; HHJ Caddick; 25 January 2012)

The wife appealed against the division of assets on the basis that the DJ had failed to give proper weight to the ‘drag' effect on her of caring for the husband's severely disabled middle aged sister during the relationship, and after the parties separation. Also the contribution that the wife will continue to give to the family by continuing to care for her. The sister had lived with the couple when they were together for 11 years before separation, and had lived and been cared for by the wife since separation 3 years earlier. Despite being separated and divorced, the wife wanted to look after the husband's sister into the future (a moral obligation only on the wife, not a legal obligation).

The appeal was allowed, the DJ erred in law by discounting this obligation from the s25 balancing exercise. The court held that the situation before the court of the husband's sister was in the same category as the example of caring for an elderly parent, as illustrated in Judge v Judge [2009] 1 FLR 128, and in the same category as a disabled child. It was rare for a moral obligation to trump a legal obligation. The sister was part of the wider family, but was still part of the ‘family' s25 (2), as per agreement reached during the marriage.

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