D v D: Useful new judgment on short marriages

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

Having already written two posts here today, and like the marriage I am about to describe, I will keep this short.

The helpfully titled D v D (financial remedy case) appeared on Bailii today. It is one of those relative rarities, a judgment of a District Judge. I always think more DJ judgments should be published, especially in financial remedy cases, as they can give a better idea of how the courts deal with more 'normal' cases, rather than the usual high-money, higher-court judgments.

Anyway, as the title to this post indicates, the primary 'feature' of D v D was that it involved a short marriage. Exactly how short was a matter of dispute between the parties, with the husband contending that it lasted a mere 16 weeks, and the DJ concluding that it actually lasted some 8 months, including pre-marital cohabitation. Still, as he said, an extremely short marriage.

The DJ found that the parties' total net assets, excluding pensions, amounted to £527,535, primarily consisting of the former matrimonial home ('FMH'), owned by the husband. The wife, who had given up an assured tenancy she had prior to the marriage, sought a lump sum of £159,600, most of which she would use to purchase a houseboat to live on. The husband offered £30,000.

The DJ set out in his judgment a quite detailed summary of the applicable law, including a useful summary of the law on the effect of short marriages on financial settlements - see in particular paragraphs 84 to 87.

So how was the case decided? The DJ said this:

"I bear in mind that the parties' total net assets excluding pensions amount to £527,535, and that if this had been a longer marriage the yardstick of equality would have produced £263,767 each. However, although a short marriage is no less to be regarded as a partnership of equals, and one must seek to avoid discrimination on divorce, there is an instinctive feeling that parties generally have less call on each other after a short marriage. Less time has elapsed for the non-working party to make a contribution, or to have enjoyed an enhanced standard of living. Here, although the Wife surrendered her assured tenancy, the Husband invested money in enlarging the FMH and paid off her indebtedness on marriage. Although the FMH is to be treated as matrimonial property, their contributions were not equal. I feel that a significant departure from equal sharing is required in fairness, and consider that of the order of 20 % of the net assets would be the right sort of split."

He therefore concluded that the husband should pay a lump sum of £110,000. The payment should be made within a year, failing which the FMH would have to be sold. Meanwhile, the husband would pay maintenance of £12,000 per annum to the wife for one year, and then £9,000 per annum for another year, following which there would be a clean break.

You can read the full judgment, all 104 paragraphs of it, here.