Published: 29th September 2014
A top family judge has warned that women who have separated from their husbands shouldn't start new relationships whilst waiting for their divorce to be finalised, as it could harm their final settlement.
High Court Judge Mr Justice Mostyn, who has represented some high profile divorcees including Sir Paul McCartney during his divorce with Heather Mills, warned that many separating parties seek comfort in the arms of a new partner following a marriage break-up, but these 'rebounded' relationships are a "fly in the ointment" for judges who have to evaluate how much a wife should receive from her husband during a divorce.
He also went on to explain that women jeopardise their long term financial security because judges tend to assume that because they are in a new relationship, they have moved into a new home and have therefore secured their futures financially.
Mr Justice Mostyn recalled a previous family law case involving a couple in their 40s from Swansea. The couple, who had been married for 13 years, lived with an adopted child and had come from very different backgrounds; the husband had very little income of his own but had inherited a small fortune from his wealthy family, whilst the wife had established a career as a journalist.
Their marriage broke down and as they entered into divorce proceedings, the wife began a new relationship with a former military officer - yet kept it hidden from the courts. The husband's legal team uncovered the relationship, which severely affected the outcome of the case and the wife's final settlement.
Mr Justice Mostyn said, "Relationships like this always are a significant fly in the ointment in the assessment of need.
"One cannot make assumptions, if it is not full-blown cohabitation akin to marriage, that it will grow into that, because if it does not, the wife may be left stranded between Scylla and Charybdis if the assumption is wrongly made. On the other hand, if one makes a needs assessment on the basis that she is a single woman and she soon cohabits, then the paying party... can rightfully feel significantly aggrieved."
"In my judgment, if the wife were assuredly single and I could foresee that continuing, I would have my doubts as to whether a net capital position, excluding pension, which will not be accessed for a long time, of just over £250,000 would be enough."
"On the other hand, I cannot ignore the existence of the relationship ... and so I reach the conclusion that the net figure that I leave the wife with of just over £250,000 is sufficient to meet her needs."
Whilst this example shows that dating during a divorce can be harmful to the financial outcome, there are other reasons as to why dating before a divorce is finalised is not a good idea.
It can have a strong emotional impact on the other party, as it can be seen as 'rubbing salt in the wounds', making the other party suffer embarrassment, hurt and even anger. As the other party seeks justice, they can become difficult and uncooperative, which can draw out divorce proceedings even longer.
If there are children involved, then the divorcing parties will need to be able to communicate and work together in the future for the sake of their children, which is why it is important that if a marriage breaks down, it is as amicable as possible.
Another reason to consider is the impact it will have on the new relationship. 'Rebounded' relationships may offer some short term relief and distraction from the pain and emotional stress that comes with going through a divorce, however it is not the ideal way to start a new relationship and could cause more complications in future.
Divorce is a painful process and both parties need time to reflect on their failed relationships and to move on with their new lives. At this point, any new relationship will be based on the 'real you' without the emotional stress that comes during a divorce, safeguarding your new relationship but also not damaging your old one.
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