UK: The Treatment Of Non-Matrimonial Property In The English Courts: JL v SL – A Recent Case

The law in relation to the treatment of non-matrimonial assets in the English Family Courts continues to evolve and JL v SL ([2015] EWHC 360) is the latest to join the alphabet of cases dealing with this issue. There had been two different schools of thought about how non-matrimonial assets should be treated. On the one hand, some judges have favoured a broad brush approach, effectively putting all the assets in a case on the balance sheet and then using their assessment of fairness to arrive at a division that reflects the fact that some of those assets arise from a source external to the marriage. On the other hand, some judges have adopted a more arithmetical approach, effectively separating non-matrimonial assets and matrimonial assets, dividing the matrimonial assets equally, and then considering the extent to which non-matrimonial assets should be divided by reference to the facts in each case. The award is then 'cross checked' to make sure it is fair. The latter of these approaches seems to be the one gaining most traction as this recent case demonstrates.

In his Judgment, Mr Justice Mostyn started by revisting Lord Nicholls's Judgment in the case of White v White [2000]. In that case, in the context of a discussion of the possible reasons for a departure from sharing assets equally at the end of a marriage, Lord Nicholls said, 'the nature and value of the property and the time and circumstances in which the property was acquired, are among the relevant matters to be considered'. This statement was followed by Sir Mark Potter's Judgment in the Court of Appeal in Charman v Charman [2007] where he made it clear that sharing would apply to all property and not only to matrimonial property when he said, 'We [the Court of Appeal] consider the answer to be that the principle applies to all the parties' property but, to the extent that their property is non-matrimonial, there is likely to be better reason for departure from equality'. Examining both of these statements in this case, Mr Justice Mostyn acknowledged the inherent difficulty in their application and the interrelationship with an assessment of fairness. He agreed that 'fairness' lies in the eye of the beholder, commenting that that it was an elusive concept and an instinctive and intuitive response to a given set of facts. He emphasised the need for consistency from one case to another as otherwise the law would be but a 'lawless science'.

Mr Justice Mostyn's preferred approach is, therefore, to avoid the intuitive scaling of the asset division down from 50/50 but instead to apply a more regimented approach in first determining the matrimonial and non-matrimonial property, dividing the matrimonial property equally and then only invading the non-matrimonial property insofar as is necessary to meet needs. His approach can be summarised as follows.

  1. Determine first whether the existence of non-matrimonial property should be reflected at all. This, he says, depends on the duration of the marriage and the extent to which non-matrimonial assets have been mingled with matrimonial assets.
     
  2. If it is fair to reflect it, then the Court should decide how much of the non-matrimonial property should be excluded: i.e. an actual sum, perhaps less if there has been much mingling, or perhaps more to reflect the fact that the non-matrimonial property was a seedcorn that then grew.
  3. The remaining matrimonial property should then normally be divided equally.

Mr Justice Mostyn's decision also touched on whether assets accrued post-separation should count as matrimonial or non-matrimonial property. His view was that such assets may be matrimonial if it can be said that they were acquired or created by a party by virtue of his or her use of an asset created during the marriage in respect of which the other party can assert an unascertained share. Where a post-separation asset is a bonus or other earned income, then it depends on whether it was earned during the marriage or after it. The further away the separation from the bonus coming in, the more likely it is to be non-matrimonial but at this point Mr Justice Mostyn himself admits that there is an element of arbitrariness.

He goes on to say that the Court will consider whether the Applicant has proceeded diligently with his or her claim (so there has been no delay designed to catch further assets falling into the net), whether the party who has had the benefit of the accrual has treated the other fairly during the period of separation, and whether the money making party has the prospect of making further gains and whether those further gains are going to be shared. However, it seems at this point that 'lawless science' begins to creep in again. Whilst the position on matrimonial and non-matrimonial property appears to have become clearer, the approach to post-separation accrual is still variable.

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.