Section 25 (1) (f) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973

(f) the contributions made by each of the parties to the welfare of the family, including any contribution made by looking after the home or caring for the family;

In UK divorce law the significance of this sub-section should not be under-estimated in the financial proceedings to settle the financial issues arising from the marriage.  It is extremely important in practice. What it is getting at is that the wife’s (and it is still typically the wife’s) contribution to the marriage by looking after the home, doing the housework, raising the children etc is to be taken into account in any division of the matrimonial property. Say, for instance, in the early years of the marriage a wife gives up her employment and stays at home to look after the children of the family while they are young. Say also that the house is in the sole name of the husband, as is the mortgage, and that the husband has made all the mortgage payments. The effect of this sub-section in the financial application is that the wife’s contribution to the “welfare of the family” by staying at home can be taken into account just as much as the husband’s contribution to the mortgage payments and the courts certainly do adopt this approach.

A husband often does feel that the house is “his” because he has paid for it but this sub-section ensures that the contribution of the wife is taken fully into acount. In the case of a long marriage, therefore, the courts would almost certainly regard the wife as entitled to a half share in the house even if she is not on the title deeds or a party to the mortgage. In fact, the needs of the children and some of the other factors above might mean that the courts would award her more than a half share of the house but it is important to be aware that this sub-section does recognise the contribution made by the wife in non-financial terms and that is its main purpose.

As the courts have said in one case:-

“..the wife who looks after the home and family contributes as much to the family as the wife who goes out to work. The one contributes in kind. The other in money or money’s worth. If the court comes to the conclusion that the home has been acquired and maintained by the joint efforts of both then, when the marriage breaks down, it should be regarded as the joint property of both of them, no matter in whose name it stands.”

It is important to understand that this principle also applies to other “family assets” as well as the matrimonial home. The wife may, perhaps, have been involved in the running of a family business. Perhaps that business may have struggled in its early years to get on its feet and the wife (and husband) may have taken very little out by way of salary etc. Yet now it may be flourishing and prosperous. Again, the wife is entitled to be compensated for this. In point of fact, a business is very rarely ordered to be sold as a house might be – because a business is an income producing asset upon which very often at least one of the parties depends – but the wife would still be entitled to be compensated in some way if, say, the business were ordered to be transferred into the husband’s sole name. Very likely such compensation would take the form of being awarded a greater share of the other matrimonial assets.

Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 essentially reads:-

”It shall be the duty of the court in deciding whether to exercise its powers ….. to have regard to all the circumstances of the case, first consideration being given to the welfare while a minor of any child of the family who has not attained the age of eighteen.

25 (1) It shall be the duty of the court in deciding whether to exercise its powers …. to have regard to all the circumstances of the case including the following matters, that is to say –

(a) 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;

(b) the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;

(c) the standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage;

(d) the age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage;

(e) any physical or mental disability of either of the parties to the marriage;

(f) the contributions made by each of the parties to the welfare of the family, including any contribution made by looking after the home or caring for the family;

(g) …the value to either of the parties to the marriage of any benefit (for example, a pension) which … (by reason of the divorce) ..that party will lose the chance of acquiring;…”

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