Wife pays lump sum in coins: the effect of conduct on a divorce settlement

A woman in America who was ordered to pay a lump sum of $7,500 (about £5,800) to her ex-husband, who she claimed  had been unfaithful to her, has made the payment entirely in 10 cent coins. The coins filled ten boxes, and weighed some 350 pounds.

It is, we suppose, one way to get even, although we wouldn’t recommend it to our clients! The woman was reportedly shocked that she had to pay money to her ex-husband, when (she claims) he had had an affair with another woman.

However, the story demonstrates something that is equally true on this side of the Atlantic: that the behaviour of the other party has little or no bearing upon the divorce settlement. Just because the other party has committed adultery, that does not mean that the court will reduce its award. And just because the other party has behaved unreasonably, that does not mean that they will get less.

Conduct will only be taken into account in a divorce settlement if it the court considers that the conduct is such that it would be inequitable to disregard it. This means that the conduct must be considerably more serious than the ‘usual’ ‘misconduct’, including adultery, involved in the breakdown of many marriages.

It is very rare for the court to find that conduct should be taken into account. Amongst the reported cases are one in which the wife shot the husband, one in which the husband commited incest with children of the family, and one in which the wife incited others to murder the husband.

Note that there are two other types of misconduct that are more common. Financial misconduct, where one party dissipates the assets of the parties, may result in a larger award for the other party, and litigation misconduct, where a party fails to cooperate with the court proceedings, may result in a costs order being made against that party.

For more information on this subject, you should consult a specialist family lawyer. Family Law Cafe can help you get the advice you need. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe surrounds and supports the customer with both legal and pastoral care, end to end, from top barristers to case workers to therapists and mediators, to help the customer get the best possible result with the minimum stress.

Image: Coins 4, by Nicholas LabyrinthX, licensed under CC BY 2.0.