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Does the Length of Marriage Affect Divorce Settlements

When it comes to financial settlements on divorce, the court will consider many different factors which will ultimately influence their decision.

In this article, we’ll outline what impact the length of a marriage has on financial settlements on divorce and how our divorce solicitors can help.

Does length of marriage affect divorce settlements?

The Court’s first consideration in divorce settlements is always the needs of any dependent children. The Matrimonial Clause Act 1973 then sets out the different factors that the court must consider when dividing assets between divorcing parties. This is regardless of whether a financial settlement has been reached by consent and the parties are asking the court to approve a settlement or if the parties are unable to reach an agreement and asking the court to decide.

These factors are known as the Section 25 factors and can be summarised as follows:

  • The income/earning capacity or other financial resources which each party to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future including in the case of earning capacity any increase in that capacity which it would in the opinion of the Court, be reasonable to expect a party to the marriage to take steps to acquire.
  • The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities of each party to the marriage both now and in the foreseeable future.
  • The standard of living enjoyed by the parties before the relationship broke down.
  • The age of the parties and the duration of the marriage.
  • Any physical or mental disability of either party.
  • The contributions which each party has made to the marriage both in terms of financial contribution and in terms of contribution to looking after the home or caring for the family.
  • The conduct of the parties but only if that conduct is so serious that it would be unfair to disregard it.

As we can see, the law clearly states that the Court must consider the length of the marriage when it determining financial settlements on divorce.

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What is classed as a short, medium or long marriage?

It may be surprising to note that any time spent living together as a couple prior to the marriage will be counted towards the total length of the marriage (provided that there has been a seamless transition from cohabitation to marriage). Therefore, the starting point to calculate the length of marriage is the date the couple started to live together.

As a general rule, the Court usually considers a marriage to be short if it lasted less than 5 years. A marriage lasting between 5 and 10 years is usually considered a medium length marriage. Anything above 10 years is usually considered a long marriage.

Marriage length and determining financial settlement

There isn’t a specific formula that directly correlates marriage length to financial settlements. The extent to which the Court will give weight to the length of the marriage in a financial settlement on divorce is dependent upon the other Section 25 factors.

For instance, in a short childless marriage, the Court are more likely to entertain arguments about contributions and pre-marital assets. Where children are a feature in a short marriage, such arguments are likely to hold less weight as the children’s needs being met are paramount.

Longer marriages typically involve more intertwined financial assets, shared property and joint responsibilities which can impact the division of finances on divorce. The Court is less likely to be enthralled by arguments regarding financial contributions –  in most cases, there is no differentiation between the home maker and the breadwinner which are considered to be of equal importance.

The extent to which the length of marriage will be taken into consideration in divorce settlements is therefore not black-and-white, and divorce solicitors will treat settlement considerations as situational.

Seeking support from our divorce solicitors

It can be a long, complex process when a partnership ends and the parties wish to divorce or dissolve their civil partnership. The financial settlement after divorce can impact the future quality of life for those involved and therefore your choice of divorce solicitor is important.

The matrimonial team at Ward Hadaway has years of experience in securing the right financial settlements for their clients whilst also understanding the emotional impact on them. We pride ourselves on guiding our clients through this difficult time with empathy, support and advice each step of the way. Contact us if you need legal support.

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    Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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