Rainscourt Family Law Solicitors

Does unreasonable behaviour affect the financial settlement in a divorce?

We are often asked whether a spouse’s bad behaviour will make any difference to a financial settlement during divorce.

A case* recently came before the Family Court in which it had to decide whether the Husband’s excessive spending should result in an add-back.  In this context an” add back” is when a court nominally add backs into that spouse’s assets the amount by which that spouse has reduced the assets.

The court, when determining how to deal with financial assets on divorce, will take into account a list of factors, and one of these factors is the behaviour of the husband and wife. This will be taken into account if it is “conduct that it would in the opinion of the court be inequitable to disregard”.

The Husband had been very successful in business, and the matrimonial pot of assets totalled in the region of £25 million.  However, he suffered from an addiction to cocaine, and the Wife sought to add back £1.5 million which had been spent by the Husband on the following items during a two year period:

ExpenditureAmount spent
Credit card£420,155
Payments to the Husband£510,203
Cash withdrawals£327,155
Drugs therapy£229,290

The court clarified that “For the court to “add-back” assets that have been spent, the court has to be satisfied that there has been “wanton dissipation of assets””. The judge found that the Husband had spent £250,000 on drugs and prostitutes during that two year period.

He concluded that this £250,000 should not be added back into the pot.  The reason for this was that “Many very successful people are flawed. This is true of this Husband. I have decided that it would be wrong to allow the Wife to take advantage of the Husband’s great abilities that enabled him to make such a success of the company while not taking the financial hit from his personality flaw that led to his cocaine addiction and his inability to rid himself of the habit. It may have been morally culpable. Overall, it was irresponsible. But I find that this was not deliberate or wanton dissipation. It would be wrong to add it back.”

This was not behaviour which would in the opinion of the court be inequitable to disregard.

*MAP v MFP [2015] EWHC 627 (Fam)

Does a spouse's bad behaviour will make any difference to a financial settlement during divorce

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