Until death us do part?….

With England at 570-7 (declared) and The West Indies facing a follow on at 99-6, I decided that my presence in front of the television was no longer necessary. I could follow the game from my laptop through The Bollo Wi-fi.

It is some time since I have had to get the books on Family Law out… but I do find it somewhat bizarre that a group of judges award £48 million and then call for a reform of the law. It is unlikely that Gordon Brown will regard the specific problems of the super-rich, in the context of divorce proceedings, to be a matter requiring immediate, or even medium to long term legislative action. There are many rather more important matters in the world than the financial affairs of Mr and Mrs Wealthy in a matrimonial matter. It follows, therefore, that the judges and those unfortunate enough to find themselves appearing in the Family Division, will just have to make do with the law as it stands. I do, of course, excuse my analysis on the ground that I have absolutely no professional (or even unprofessional knowledge) of this area of the law.

Frankly, given the present state of English law on matrimonial finance matters, if someone believes now (a) in 25 years time they will be exceptionally rich, (b) they will fall out of love or otherwise decide that their marriage isn’t working/ convenient/restrictive (c) they wish to continue living in Britain and (d) don’t wish to part with 35-50 per cent of assets built up over the marriage period … then don’t get married (or get married in Russia [and live there?]), don’t live with anyone, and, certainly, don’t let them live in your garden or other land, without sending them periodic objections to stop the application of adverse possession laws.

I hope this is helpful to anyone who chances upon my blog from ‘Google’ or other search engines – after searching for information on divorce, red rubber gloves, flashing judges, or wine making in Surrey.


9 thoughts on “Until death us do part?….

  1. There are a number of important questions. One is the status of pre-nuptial contracts, as raised by Sir Mark Potter. Another is whether we should have a different set of rules for big-money cases. Some would say we already do (why did Mrs Charman not receive a full 50% of the assets, under the ‘yardstick of equality’ – because she was ‘only’ a housewife, as stated by Mr Charman?), but I have always felt that that would be quite wrong. Surely, we should all be treated equally under the law, irrespective of wealth?

  2. Thank you John…

    1. Agree on the equality of law point.

    2. Pre-nuptial contracts, provided they are drawn up fairly – an answer?

    I do stress that I am not familiar with Family Law, nor do I claim expertise in this area and was just ‘off on a frolic of my own’.

    Was I even close to the mark?

  3. I agree with your original post, save for the advice not to live with anyone – until we get proper cohabitees’ rights, the mere fact that your partner lives with you will not entitle them to a share of your property.

    As to pre-nuptial contracts, I’m not sure that they will provide a complete answer, for example where there is an unforeseen change of circumstances. In any event, it’s unlikely that there will ever be a huge takeup – after all, it’s not ‘romantic’.

    What we really need is some clearer statutory guidance, possibly even a formula (as some have proposed), to create more certainty.

  4. Can’t quite believe I am leaving comments on matters of property law on a bank holiday weekend, but there you go… The mere fact that a partner lives with you will not entitle them to a share of your property. However, beware allowing them to contribute to mortgage payments, or even household bills and expenses (more tenuous) – this may (depending upon surrounding circumstances) be sufficient for the law to recognise that an interest in the property has arisen – from there it’s potentially a slippery slope…

    As far as allowing people to live on your land / in your garden shed is concerned, it’s not such a problem any more (unless you value your privacy of course!). If you ‘let them stay there’ it would never have been a problem because they would not have been adverse possessors. If they are there without permission then, if the land is registered, it’s very diffuicult under the new Land Registration legislation to succeed in a claim for adverse possession (Sched 6). If you live in a property to which title is unregistered, it may be a good idea to go and buy some very tall fencing and some razor wire (although consequential injury may attract criminal liability (?) – but I don’t know anything about criminal law!).

    L2B :-)

  5. The guy in Hampstead who now has a £2 million plot of land after living in a shed on Hampstead Heath woodland came to mind….

    But yes… what are you doing posting about Property Law on a Bank Holiday?

    I have an excuse…. too disorganised to arrange social life at mo… and have been doing serious work all day, as I will, be tomorrow – and, it has to be said, watching a bit of cricket.

    Doing a podcast with Justin Patten on meidation tomorrow… which I am looking forward to.

    Have a good one

  6. L2B: You’re right of course about a cohabitee possibly acquiring an interest via a contribution – I didn’t mention this in my previous comment, as it seemed a little too much detail! In any event, as you say, that’s quite enough law for a bank holiday weekend… :-)

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