In the recent High Court decision of J v C there was a relationship of short duration i.e. shorter than 3 years, between C and J. C was the Executive Principal at a large private school and J was at home looking after her son. The Family Court decided that the relationship property was to be apportioned accordingly: 87.5% to C and the remaining 12.5% to J. This assessment was upheld in the High Court.
The approach taken by the Family Court was to:
- Weigh the value of contributions to the relationship made by the parties; then
- Compare the contributions themselves in order to decide how the property must be divided.
There are two categories of contributions:
- Financial – e.g. money paid towards the mortgage of the family home
- Non-financial – e.g. cooking, assisting in providing a stable home environment
When evaluating the parties’ contributions, the FC judge expressly referred to s18(2) of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 reiterating that there could be no presumption that a financial contribution was of greater value than a non-financial one. The Court found substantial disparity in financial contributions with regard to the way each party made their income available for the benefit of the marriage. C provided a home and paid most of the household expenses and J could not adequately show her financial contribution to the relationship.
J contended that her non-financial contributions were greater than those of C. The judge found that there was no evidence of this. The High Court judge stated that if J had assisted in providing him with a stable home environment and the value of a mutually supportive relationship then this could have been considered a non-financial contribution to the marriage. The toxic atmosphere at home prevented her from claiming this.
The judge ultimately found that the non-financial contributions of the parties were materially equivalent and thus decided to give extra weight to the differences in financial contributions.
Apportioning Relationship Property
The High Court judge stated that in assessing the share of relationship property that each party is entitled to, there is more than one approach that can be taken. This is in line with Richardson J in Illingworth, “At the end of the day quantification of the shares is more a matter of overall impression than of any mathematical exactitude”.
With regard to the above details, and with respect to J’s unfavourable presentation in Court the FC judge reached the above apportionment which was subsequently upheld in the High Court.
- When non-financial contributions are found to be materially equivalent then they can be treated as neutral and greater weight is given to the parties’ financial contributions.
- When assessing the share of the relationship property each party is entitled to there is no hard rule to follow. Apportionment of the property is decided with respect to the overall impression given by the parties.
- The provision of ‘a stable home environment and the value of a mutually supportive relationship’ could be considered a non-financial contribution to a relationship. Not made out in this case.
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