Published: 28th July 2015
Family law firms across the country are reporting an upward trend of wives wanting their divorce cases settled in London in the hope of receiving a larger payout, creating a North-South divide in how divorce cases are settled by the courts.
There is a growing perception that London courts are more likely to award a generous payout, with judges in the capital favouring arrangements that would see the spouse receive long term financial support, as opposed to a fixed-term maintenance order.
Some family law experts are even going as far as claiming there is a 'maintenance map' which can be used to predict the generosity of divorce payouts and the length of maintenance agreements, which differ depending on the town or city that the divorce case is heard. This can result in a form of 'postcode lottery' over the size of the payout and the amount of support divorcees will receive.
It is also believed that many of the courts in London, the South and the South East are far more 'pro-wife', whilst courts in the North are believed to favour the husband. Opinions differ from place to place, as some courts favour a clean break from the relationship by splitting a couples assets equally and with no maintenance payout, where as others favour long term maintenance to be paid over a number of years.
The divorce system is designed in such a way that it should provide a suitable outcome, based on the needs of the individual, which results in a large variety of settlements from case to case. However, research suggests that spouses having their cases heard in London have a better chance of lucrative maintenance payouts and securing capital compared to the North of the country, where awards of long term maintenance support are 'infrequent' at best.
Traditionally it was common for wives to expect some form of maintenance support as well as their share of any marital assets until they remarry, however fixed-term maintenance orders are becoming more increasingly common and are now featuring in a large proportion of divorce cases.
Former Chairman of Resolution, Nigel Shepherd believes that there is an element of 'lottery' to divorce rulings. "The upside of our discretionary system is that it is designed to be flexible so judges can tailor the outcome to the needs of the parties. The downside of that is the lack of consistency or certainty as to outcome. It varies tremendously."
These latest findings only further fuel London's reputation as 'divorce capital of the world', with many foreign couples choosing to come to London from overseas in the hope of a more favourable divorce settlement.
The growing trend of shopping around for the best place to divorce can come with extra problems that could make the situation worse, as it can add extra cost and delays to the process, creating more friction between separating couples at an already difficult time.
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