In this article, we will look at the principle which is referred to as “relationship generated disadvantage.”
So what is relationship generated disadvantage in divorce? In divorce, a spouse may request compensation for relationship generated disadvantage and it is most often applied when one party has given up a lucrative career to care for the children of the family. As seen in Miller v Miler; McFarlane v McFarlane  UKHL 24, this concept recognizes that one party, usually a wife, may have seriously damaged his/her ability to earn money for the sake of the family. This is even if the party’s future needs have been met generously.
It should be emphasized that this principle has only been seen in exceptional circumstances so before you believe you can receive such compensation upon divorce, it is important you read through this and most importantly, speak with your solicitor so he/she can advise you properly.
Now that we have clarified the meaning of a “relationship generated disadvantage” let’s talk about a recent UK ruling whereby Mr. Justice Moor stated that a couple who had been married for approximately 10 years and had two children together should split their assets but then added that the wife, a graduate lawyer from Cambridge University who had sacrificed her career to raise the parties’ children should be awarded an additional £400,000 as compensation. It is important to note that this additional £400,000 award was on top of an equal split of the matrimonial pool of approximately £10,000,000.
In his ruling the Judge reasoned that there was a relationship generated disadvantage because the husband, also a lawyer, had enjoyed a “stellar” career and the husband’s career took precedence whilst the wife remained at home as the primary carer of the children.
According to reports from the UK, the couple met in September 1999 when the husband was an associate solicitor and the wife was a trainee. After the wife qualified and made an associate in March 2001, the two individuals became a couple and shortly thereafter the husband became an equity partner at a law firm. The wife worked as a solicitor and in 2006 was promoted to be a managing associate and later moved to a bank to become an in-house lawyer in 2007. After the couple married in 2008, they moved into a large home valued over £5.8 million. Like many couples with children, the pair decided that she would take a step back from her career to raise the children whilst her husband continued to advance in his law career.
According to the reports, the wife returned to work in a part-time non-legal role after her 1st maternity leave but then was made redundant in December 2016 and has not worked since then.
In awarding the wife £400,000 in a relationship generated disadvantage compensation award, Judge Moor calculated this based upon the husband’s future working life of 4 more years at his firm (before an encouraged retirement after 20 years of practice) and that wife had earned approximately £100,000 a year both at the firm and the bank.
Following this ruling, the wife’s UK lawyer provided a comment to the UK press stating that they were delighted at the outcome for their client and emphasized that their client had sacrificed a potentially lucrative career to raise a family.
It is important to note the UK Judge’s statement in his ruling where he emphasized that “[I] accept that it is unusual to find significant relationship-generated disadvantage that may lead to a claim for compensation but I am clear that this is one such case.” Thus, it is not the usual circumstance where a Family Court will find that a spouse shall receive such compensation.
When a Family Court looks to the distribution of finances, the Family Court will look at factors outlined in Cap 192 Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Ordinance section 7. These factors include:
- 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
- Financial needs obligations and responsibilities which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
- Standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage
- Age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage
- Any physical or mental disability of either of the parties to the marriage
- 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
However, this most recent ruling by the UK courts may be something to discuss with your solicitor if you feel you have suffered a relationship generated disadvantage, as it may be an argument to present to the Family Court in your matter and it is apparent the Family Court may consider such compensation to you.