UK: Playing Away from Home

Last Updated: 17 June 2010

Professional footballers in both Scotland and England hit the headlines for all sorts of reasons; sometimes good, sometimes bad. Marital indiscretions are a regular feature of some of the more lurid stories about professional footballers. In many cases the long suffering wife will give her husband a second chance, but on other occasions they head for the divorce court. How do the wives of English footballers fare in the divorce courts compared to the wives of Scottish footballers?

Take the example of Jack Towry, a player for a large English Premiership club. He's coming to the end of his career, he's been the subject of a recent scandal, and has decided to move with his wife to Scotland to start afresh with their marriage. Jack signed for a top Scottish club, where he's been for the last year. Unfortunately for him he's become the subject of another scandal and Mrs Towry has raised divorce in Scotland.

Under Scots law Mrs Towry would be entitled to a fair share of the matrimonial property (all property acquired by the parties during the marriage other than assets acquired by gift or succession). More often than not, a fair share is an equal share. Mr and Mrs Towry have been united in matrimony for less than three years. Thus, if a Scottish court decided the property should be shared equally, Mrs Towry would be entitled to only half of the assets built up during those three years. She would not be entitled to any houses, cars, stocks, shares or cash which Mr Towry owned before the wedding.

In June 2007, Mr Towry entered the marriage with significant wealth. It is reported that he was earning in excess of £100,000 per week and was worth an estimated £10 million. He is now reportedly worth £16 million. For the sake of simplicity, let us assume that Mr Towry entered the marriage with £10 million worth of assets and that by the time the parties separated those assets remained intact, Mrs Towry would then be entitled to cash in the sum of, or assets to the value of, £3 million - half of the wealth built up during the marriage or in legal terms, half of the matrimonial property.

In England, matrimonial does not explicitly exclude pre-marital assets and Mrs Towry could have received an award of up to £8 million.

With regard to maintenance for Mrs Towry, in Scotland, a spouse who has been dependent to a substantial degree on the financial support of the husband/wife will be awarded reasonable financial provision to enable him or her to adjust to the loss of the financial support. Maintenance can only be awarded beyond a period of three years if a spouse is likely to suffer serious financial hardship as a result of the divorce. A Scottish court would be unlikely to take the view that Mrs Towry would suffer financial hardship with an award of capital totalling £3 million.

Case law indicates that the result would be very different in England, where judges have regard to "compensation." Compensation can cover the extent to which one spouse ought to be compensated by the other for the drop in living standards caused by the divorce. Take the case of Ray Parlour. Karen and Ray Parlour were only married for seven years before they divorced. They lived together as a married couple for only three years. It was decided that Mrs Parlour was entitled to a share of Mr Parlour's future earnings. The footballer's former wife had already received a capital payment of £250,000 and two mortgage free heritable properties. Mrs Parlour was told by the court in 2004 that the settlement would be reviewed in four years to establish whether the award was enough for her to make a clean break. In Scotland, a clean break means a clean break. As stated above, in Scotland Mrs Parlour would have to be suffering financial hardship to receive maintenance beyond a three year period. Even within the first three years, aliment will only be awarded if it is required to allow a spouse to adjust to the loss of financial support.

The moral of the story? There are certain attractions to English Premiership players in coming up to Scotland. However, as well the usual appeal of a house in stunning countryside and a healthy environment in which to bring up their children, there is also the added benefit that any award made as part of a divorce in Scotland is likely to be considerably less than the award a wronged wife would receive in England.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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