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20 February 2017

Judge says divorcees don't need to afford lifestyle they were accustomed to in marriage

Divorcees do not need to be able to afford the lifestyle they were accustomed to in marriage, a Court of Appeal judge has suggested as he rejected an ex-wife’s bid to increase her settlement, reports The Telegraph.

Katriona MacFarlane claimed that she had not been awarded enough to buy a home similar to the £1million country cottage she shared with Dr James MacFarlane, 74.

The 58-year-old also claimed she was owed compensation for “abandoning” her teaching career to be “looked after” by the millionaire.

But a Court of Appeal judge on Monday rejected her claims and said the previous living standards of a couple were only a guide when it came to how much an ex-wife or husband deserves.

Mr Justice Moylan said he did not agree that “need should be met at a level similar or comparable to the standard of living during the marriage”, as this standard was only one factor.

Referring to a previous hearing at a divorce court in Nottingham, where Judge Mark Rogers similarly rejected Mrs MacFarlane’s claims, he added: “The judge was correct when he said the previous standard of living is a guide, but not completely determinative. There is no prospect of the judge's assessment of housing need being shown to be wrong."

After the hearing, the husband's solicitor said the decision raises the possibility that spouses who include a compensation argument within their case may find it more difficult to succeed.

John Hooper, of John Hooper & Co, said: "This is yet another example of the judiciary taking an increasingly pragmatic approach towards resolving these types of problems."

Mrs MacFarlane was working as an acting headteacher when she met Dr MacFarlane, a semi-retired GP, in 2003.

She sold her own home to buy his daughter's half share of his house in Derbyshire and claimed she gave up her "promising" career while still in her 40s when her new husband promised he would "look after" them both.

They enjoyed a lifestyle "substantially better than that of a comfortable middle class couple" in the five-bed cottage, with formal gardens, adjoining coach house and its own woodland.

However, the trouble began when they separated after Dr MacFarlane told her he wanted to split up in 2013.

In an initial divorce hearing in 2015, Judge Rogers ruled Mrs MacFarlane should receive half the proceeds of sale of the house, plus a £140,000 lump sum.

But at the Court of Appeal on Monday, her barrister Paul Isaacs said it was wrong that Dr MacFarlane would not be compensating her for her years off the career ladder.

"Mrs MacFarlane stated that on marriage the husband promised that if she gave up her permanent employment, and consequently her career, he would look after her financially," Mr Isaacs said.
If she had not given up full-time work, she would now be earning up to £105,000-a-year and would be entitled to a generous final salary pension, it was claimed, but instead she is limited to working as a supply teacher.

Her lawyers also said her standard of accommodation was "far removed" from that which she enjoyed during the marriage.

Judge Rogers had decided that all she needed to buy a house was £450,000 but she had wanted considerably more, Mr Isaacs told the Court of Appeal.

"Her case was, 'why should I be relegated to a house that's far inferior to that which I lived in during the marriage and that which I had before the marriage?'” he said.

Read more on this story here.