Property and financial settlement on divorce - order restored (almost)

04 AUG 2006

Professor John Eekelaar, Pembroke College, University of Oxford. In Miller v Miller; McFarlane v McFarlane [2006] UKHL 24, [2006] 1 FLR 1186 the House of Lords attempted to put in place a framework within which property and financial disputes on divorce could be disposed of on a fair and principled basis. The decision is a substantial advance towards those objectives, but, as will be seen, the process is not yet complete. The media unanimously saw the judgments as shifting the balance (further) towards wives. The author says this is ironic, since, if the decision had not been made in the way it was, it is likely that wives would have been in a better position. One reason is that the House of Lords rejected the central arguments which underpinned the Court of Appeal's support for the award in Miller. Those arguments would have allowed a wife's expectations about her long-term future when she married a rich man to be a key element in the award. They would also have allowed the award to be increased if the husband was to blame for the breakdown of the marriage and would have permitted the court to assess the emotional and psychological damage caused to the wife. All this has gone. The relevance of conduct is confined to the truly exceptional case. See September [2006] Fam Law 754 for the full article.

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