Does behaviour make a difference on divorce?
My husband had affairs, was violent, spent all our money. I will therefore be compensated and get more money in the divorce, won’t I?’ Probably not. There are two kinds of conduct, ‘personal’, that upsets one party, such as meanness, cruelty and laziness, and ‘financial’, when one party spends huge amounts of money in a way that is difficult to quantify, (unlike houses and cars) and is now ‘gone’. Personal misconduct is common but rarely taken into account, unless it is severe (like a shooting or stabbing of the spouse or sexual abuse of a child). In these cases, the perpetrator is likely to be punished financially.
Examples of financial misconduct would be monies spent gambling, on drugs, excess alcohol or prostitutes. In cases of financial misconduct, the court has the ability to “add back” the money spent as if the money were still available for division. In situations where one party secretly squirrels money away out of greed, and with the sole intention of depriving the other, then this money may be added back. However, gambling, drug or alcohol consumption, if consumed as part of an addiction, probably will not be, as it will usually be considered an illness rather than an intention to deprive.
In one recent case a husband spent £500,000 on cocaine and prostitutes. The Judge refused to ‘add back’ saying she had married him so must ‘take him as she found him’. The behaviour in this case reminds me of the George Best quote: ‘Half my money I spent on women and booze. The rest I wasted’.
It is important that people understand that in most cases misconduct, whether personal or financial will not affect the financial outcome. Do not presume, and always obtain, good legal advice to avoid throwing good money after bad.