It can hardly have escaped most of us that Cheryl and Ashley Cole are to go their separate ways after certain allegations have emerged recently. The media circus that surrounded their marriage is likely to continue over the coming weeks, with everyone keen to know the ins and outs about who did what, and who will get what.
But leaving aside all of the gossip and intrigue, in reality if the Coles do go ahead and divorce, it is likely to be a very simple and straightforward case in terms of how a financial settlement will be reached.
The courts are required to apply a number of factors in each and every case when determining what the financial outcome should be. These are:
- 1. The income, earning capacity, property, and other financial resources which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
- 2. The financial needs, obligations, and responsibilities which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
- 3. The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage;
- 4. The age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage;
- 5. Any physical or mental disability of either of the parties to the marriage;
- 6. The contributions that each of the parties has made or is likely in the foreseeable future to make to the welfare of the family;
- 7. The conduct of the parties, if that conduct is such that it would be inequitable to disregard it;
- 8. The value to each of the parties to the marriage of any benefit, such as a pension, which a party will lose the chance of acquiring.
The starting point when considering a division of finances upon the breakdown of any marriage is a 50/50 split. However, this presumption can be displaced in certain circumstances, such as where the marriage is short in duration, as with Cheryl and Ashley. This is particularly true if both the husband and the wife have their own independent wealth and would be more than comfortable with simply keeping their own assets, rather than looking to one another for more. This, coupled with the fact that there are no children of the marriage, could mean that in all likelihood, Cheryl and Ashley will simply leave the marriage each keeping their own assets, with no form of maintenance being paid. The factors listed above that will be most relevant to the Coles' case will therefore be 1 and 4. Both of them have their own successful careers that are likely to continue in years to come, and are unlikely to look to the other for financial support having separated.
As regards conduct, listed as 7 above, the way in which the media portray the case may well lead people to believe that because of the way Ashley has allegedly behaved, this will somehow be taken into account when looking at the finances. However, conduct will only be taken into account in extreme circumstances, for example one of the parties frittered a large amount of marital money through gambling without the knowledge or consent of the other party.
We as family lawyers will always stress to our clients the importance of dealing with separation or divorce as amicably as possible. No doubt if Cheryl and Ashley have consulted their own legal advisors they will be encouraged to do the same. Let's just hope that the media allow them their privacy so that they can both move on with their lives.
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