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Ancillary Relief and the Public/Private Divide

Date:19 AUG 2009

Somaya Ouazzani, Solicitor, Anthony Gold

Ancillary relief has for many years seen the courts adjusting the private financial lives of family members: however, it has now begun to look to the public side of that ideological divide. Legal practitioners are now more aware that, as described by Starnes, 'the home is not an equal opportunity employer' (C Starnes, 'Divorce and the Displaced Homemaker: A Discourse of Playing with Dolls, Partnership Buyouts and Dissociation Under No Fault,' (1993) 60 Uni. Chi. L. Rev 67) and that the gender divisions are not necessarily the result of freely chosen decisions. The milestone case of White v White [2000] 2 FLR 981 incontrovertibly has been the catalyst which instigated this recognition. Lord Nicholls, in discussing the 1970 statutory provisions rightly stated '... the property adjustment provisions were limited... they reflected the values of male-dominated Victorian society.' He famously held '... there is no place for discrimination between husband and wife and their respective roles.' White correctly denounced any preference for the breadwinner's contribution and realised that the homemaker's contribution is conducive to the breadwinner's success. 'There is greater awareness', said Lord Nicholls, 'of the extent to which one spouse's business success is achieved by a family contribution of the other spouse, a contribution which... required much sustained hard work over many years.' White recognised that society, despite its ideals of egalitarian relationships, in reality is not organised in this way. This article will examine whether ancillary relief law has taken up the implicit challenge offered by White to promote equality between spouses.

To read the rest of this article, see September [2009] Family Law journal.

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