It is quite common that one spouse believes that they should get a more favourable divorce settlement because of the other spouse’s bad conduct during the course of the marriage.
But can the conduct of one party be taken into account on a financial settlement? And if so, how likely is it to affect the outcome?
The answer to the first question is: yes, conduct can be taken into account, if it is such that it would in the opinion of the court be inequitable to disregard it.
However, the answer to the second question is: “not very likely”. To have an effect the conduct must be “both obvious and gross”, in other words of a quite serious nature – far more serious than would be encountered in most marriage breakdowns.
The result of this is that it is actually quite unusual for a ‘conduct’ argument to succeed.
However, a relatively rare example of conduct being taken into account by the court was recently reported.
In the case the husband, who was a doctor, obtained a post in a hospital in 2011. In 2012 he was suspended from work, and in 2018 he was convicted of fraud in relation to the representations he made to obtain the post, and sentenced to 6 years imprisonment. He also had a confiscation order made against him in the sum of £337,000.
In February 2021 the husband was released from prison, but the parties separated in the following month. The wife then commenced divorce proceedings, and made a financial remedies application.
By the time the application was heard late last year there was about £412,000 owing under the confiscation order, including interest.
In considering the wife’s application the judge held that this was clearly a case in which the husband’s conduct would be inequitable to disregard. As the wife put it in her statement, the husband’s suspension, conviction, imprisonment and being struck off had been catastrophic for herself, and the children – she felt “completely duped and defrauded by him”.
Taking this and other matters into account, the judge awarded the wife 55% of the non-pension assets, plus 66% of the husband’s pension (the husband had essentially sought an equal division of the assets, and for the wife to receive about a quarter of his pension).
Notwithstanding the outcome of this case, raising a conduct argument should only be done after first taking expert legal advice. We can find you an expert who can assist you via our digital platform. For more information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.
The judgment in the case can be found here.
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