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

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


In financial proceedings in divorce this sub-section is something of a hang-over from the pre-1973 law. The law as it stood at that time allowed the parties to be “compensated” for the standard of living which was lost as a result of the marriage breaking down. This might have made sense, for instance, where a wife had given up her employment to marry a very wealthy man and then the marriage broke down. Such a wife might feel that she ought to be compensated for what she had lost.

It has to be said that this approach is now regarded as anachronistic and it is not readily taken into account by the courts although reference to the former standard of living does feature on a Form E. There is a strong public feeling that divorce should not represent a “meal ticket for life” (which is reflected in the statutory provisions that the courts should always consider the appropriateness of a “clean break” settlement and/or limiting spousal maintenance in terms of time) and the attitude of the courts to some extent mirrors this.

The truth of the matter is that in the overwhelming majority of cases of marriage breakdown it is simply not practical to put this consideration into practice. Say, for instance, the only significant matrimonial asset is the former matrimonial home and that both husband and wife have a need for alternative accommodation (as is very often the case). If the matrimonial home is sold and the proceeds divided between husband and wife the likely outcome is that each will have to live in a more modest home. The additional expenses of maintaining two homes where only one was maintained before from the same joint income will mean that the standard of living of both spouses will fall. This is inevitable and there is not a great deal that can be done about it.

This subsection is a good example of how the words of the Act cannot be fully understood by someone who is not familiar with the decisions of the courts. We have lost count of the number of times we have heard one spouse say to the other, ‘You must keep me in the manner to which I have been accustomed’.

In practice subsection (a) will mean that this simply isn’t practical. The financial resources that used to maintain one home are not usually sufficient to maintain two homes to the same standard. Also, please notice that this sub section applies to both spouses. It does not mean (or say) that one spouse must have an undiminished standard of living at the expense of the other.

For the above reason this sub-section is only rarely applicable.  In most cases it is simply a counsel of perfection and the available assets do not make it viable to consider doing this. Nevertheless, if the assets available for division are substantial this sub-section may become still become relevant in some cases.



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;…”

Copyright © Terry & Co. Terry & Co is not responsible for the content of external sites linked to this site. This firm is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority SRA No 76180

Terms of Use                                                         Privacy Policy