New laws on divorce and living together

Whether you are loved-up or splitting up, Britain's legal eagles have been busy, supposedly on your behalf. I can imagine that some Arrsers will have a lot to say about this. So what are implications...

If you're getting divorced....

In landmark rulings, two ex-wives have been told that they are entitled to a sizeable chunk of their former husbands' millions. Melissa Miller can keep the £5m she was awarded out of her ex-husband Alan's £17.5m fortune and Julia McFarlane is entitled to £250,000 a year from her ex-husband Kenneth for life - not just the five years decided by the Court of Appeal.

Mrs McFarlane argued that she gave up a high-earning career to raise children as part of a joint decision with her husband when they married 18 years earlier. The ruling shows that judges are now considering contribution and compensation to ensure fairness. The law recognised that her husband's future income was a product of their joint endeavours during the marriage.

In the other case, Mr Miller challenged an earlier court order that he pay his ex-wife the £5m after their two year, nine month marriage failed. The couple had no children but a judge had decided Mrs Miller was entitled to a substantial settlement because she married with 'reasonable expectation' of a future wealthy lifestyle. In the past, case law relating to short marriages returned the parties to their former position with a small element of compensation for the weaker party. It is now a question of achieving fairness for both.

It's not all one-sided though. Surrey millionairess Heather Martin-Dye has had to sell assets she brought to her second marriage to give her second ex-husband the 43% share a judge said he was entitled to after their 20-year marriage.

The implications, not just for the wealthy but for anyone contemplating marriage or a civil partnership are considerable and have been hailed a 'divorce jackpot' and 'a gold digger's charter'. Going forward, expect no discrimination between the breadwinner and the homemaker. England now has the most 'wife-friendly' divorce stance in Europe but this could equally apply to house husbands and lower-earning men. Pre-nuptial agreements do not have any binding legal effect in England and Wales... yet. But they are increasingly being taken into account by the courts in subsequent divorce proceedings so are well worth having.

If you're moving in together......

Legal agreements could also be the way forward if the government accepts proposals made by its law reform advisers for cohabiting couples. Potential changes in law could see couples who live together but do not marry making a financial claims against each other. The Law Commission's consultation paper proposes that a partner who has enjoyed an economic advantage as a result of cohabitation should have to compensate the party who has been put at a financial disadvantage by the relationship.

There are more than 2.2 million cohabiting couples in England and Wales and three-quarters of them have children. This is why the government has decided to review the position. Many believe, wrongly, that they would enjoy the same rights as married couples if they separated.

To qualify, cohabitants would have to live in an 'intimate' relationship. Blood relatives and live-in carers would be excluded and so would lodgers, provided you were not, ahem, intimate with them. Courts would be able to award regular maintenance payments and lump sums. Former cohabitants who could not afford these might be ordered to share pension rights or sell their homes. Nice.

Compensation would be considered where the claimant could demonstrate that their earning capacity had been impaired by financial sacrifices made during the relationship. Simply living together would not give one partner an automatic right in the other party's property, however long their relationship had lasted but there is no minimum qualifying period of cohabitation. Let's hope that if this law comes into effect there wont be some idiot trying a test case based on getting fed up after a fortnight.

A final report on the proposals is not due until next year. In the meantime, you can ask your solicitor to draw up a declaration of trust if you own a property in unequal shares, as tenants in common. This will set out how the property's value should be split if the relationship breaks down.

If you own a property as tenants in common rather than joint tenants, make sure you make a will, otherwise your share could pass to your next of kin rather than your girlfriend or boyfriend. You should also draw up a Living Together Agreement - visit for details.
Hence I will never live in a country run by Blair and the rest of the Labour Party scum. This is just so his bitch and her mates can make money by interfering where they are not wanted. F*** them they will never get a penny out of me. They need to me be told to f*** off at the hight port.

These clowns are always looking for ways to make money out of the rest of us. If I wanted to be married I would be. I do not want to crap of divorce etc thus I am not married.

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