The ruling of a top Judge has sent a ‘dire warning’ to divorcing woman dating before the financial settlement with their ex has been finalised warns one of the region’s top family lawyers.
Simon Leach, of Family Law Group said the ruling by Mr Justice Mostyn, who represented Sir Paul McCartney in his acrimonious split with Heather Mills shows just how delicately some parties may have to tread.
In a written ruling the High Court judge warned wives that dating before divorce was a ‘fly in the ointment’ for family court judges asked to decide how much money husbands should give wives following break-ups.
He added that women risked losing their share because some judges might assume they would set up home with new partners, thereby ensuring a solid financial future.
Justice Mostyn explained the dilemma following a family court hearing in Swansea where a couple in their 40s battled over the husband’s fortune.
Although the man in question had virtually no income and his wife worked, he inherited millions from his family.
They had been together for well over a decade but two years ago the marriage turned sour and during the lengthy legal arguments over the matrimonial money the wife started a relationship with another man, but neglected to tell the court.
However, the husband’s legal team discovered the relationship, which dealt a huge blow to her case, and resulted in a £250,000 pay out, a small portion of his wealth.
The judge reasoned: “She says she is not going to live with him, although it is perfectly clear the relationship is strong.”
“Relationships like this are a significant fly in the ointment in the assessment of need,” he added.
Justice Mostyn added that if the wife was assuredly single then he doubted whether the payment would be enough, yet he could not ignore the relationship.
Mr Leach said the ruling has caused some surprise but shows how carefully some have to behave whilst in a dispute over finances.
“Only time will tell if this ruling signals a new approach by the courts or if it is just a one off based on the facts of this particular case,” he said. “However, it has caused a shock in family law circles and shows that judges should take all relevant circumstances into account including an existing partner’s assets and income.”