I suspect that a case reported in The Times yesterday may raise a few eyebrows, particularly amongst non family lawyers. A wife won a £220,000 settlement 22 years after separating from her husband, where the only real asset was an inheritance that the husband had come into after the separation. She had successfully argued that she had been financially disadvantaged by bringing up their child with minimal support from the husband, and that she had a need for housing and pension provision.

The question is, should the husband have had to provide for those needs out of assets acquired after the separation? I admit to being a little uneasy about this, even if it is not incorrect in law. There does seem to be an element of opportunism on the part of the wife - even her lawyer admitted that a factor in her making the claim was that the husband had come into the inheritance. As to the lack of child support, isn't that a separate issue? She should have applied for proper child support/maintenance while the child was a minor, but it appears that she did not.

One thing is clear to me: as I have stated here before, it is about time that we had more certainty in our ancillary relief laws. Clear statutory guidance could, for example, deal with such issues as how inheritances and assets acquired post-separation are treated upon divorce. I am not the only one wanting reform in this area but, as with reform of divorce itself, I can't see it happening any time soon - parliament has much more pressing issues to deal with, such as MPs expenses.

(My thanks once again to John Hirst of Jailhouselawyer's Blog for bringing my attention to this story.)


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