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ANCILLARY RELIEF: RP v RP [2006] EWHC 3409 (Fam)

Date:8 DEC 2006

(Family Division; Coleridge J; 8 December 2006)

Awarding the wife about 60% of the assets, and the husband 40%, the judge commented that care needed to be taken to ensure that certain passages of the House of Lords judgment in Miller: McFarlane [2006] 1 FLR 1186 were not treated as some kind of quasi statutory amendment. The word 'compensation' did not appear in the statute, and might not add anything to the concept of 'financial . . . obligations and responsibilities which each of the parties has'. It was neither possible nor desirable to break up, artificially, these ancillary relief claims into separate heads of claim as if they were actions for damages for personal injury. In the family jurisdiction there was only one finite pot of resources which had to be divided up between the two parties fairly, by balancing their competing claims by reference to Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, s 25. The balancing exercise was very sensitive to even a slight adjustment causing an exaggerated discrepancy/result. It would be totally misconceived to call expert evidence to establish the value of the wife's loss of earnings/earning capacity caused by her marriage, and would be likely to lead to double counting. Calling for a period of reflective tranquillity, the judge suggested that the current state of the law was creating very real uncertainty as to outcome, and thus consensual disposal of cases had become harder to achieve and more costly.