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Divorce FAQs: Will my ex’s bad behaviour mean I get a better settlement?

January 13, 2016  |   Posted by :   |   Blog

Divorcing couples often find themselves divorce blame when it comes to negotiating a settlement. From the outset, ‘fault’ is assigned when one party states grounds for divorce – be it adultery, abandonment, or unreasonable behaviour. It’s understandable that separating couples feel the need to lay blame on one another – divorce is a melting pot of emotions, and holding your ex responsible for the hurt you’re feeling is a natural reaction. .And for someone who has had to endure a cheating spouse or emotional abuse, dividing up their assets equally can seem horribly unfair, especially when their ex’s bad conduct is at the root of their divorce However, it is a common misconception that bad behaviour will influence the amount received in a financial settlement, and it’s important to understand the rules surrounding bad conduct before you enter into negotiations.

What is bad conduct?

Bad conduct is another way of describing behaviour that may have contributed to the breakdown of a marriage, such as irresponsible spending or infidelity. Bad conduct may be detailed in the grounds of a divorce petition, or revealed later during the process of separation, and can be classified in two ways: personal and financial.

It is unusual for personal misconduct to be considered as a factor in financial settlement, even in cases of adultery or abuse, unless it is very serious or has an effect on child maintenance or the costs of divorce. Financial misconduct on the other hand usually has a direct bearing on settlement, and therefore is likely to be taken into account in a court decision. Financial issues might include running up debts, gambling, or squandering assets so that there is less money to divide up during proceedings. In these cases, a settlement may be increased to include these ‘wasted’ assets. However, the court will not reduce one portion of a settlement as a way of punishing the person responsible for the bad conduct, though they may suggest that one party contributes to the legal costs of their ex-partner as part of the settlement.

Dealing with bad conduct

When you’re on the receiving end of bad conduct it’s easy to get side-tracked by a sense of injustice or fired up to fight for a settlement that leans in your favour, but it’s essential to remember that divorce is primarily a financial issue. To avoid a lengthy and expensive court process, you must be able to separate the emotional from the practical. A financial settlement is the result of a legal decision based on your assets and situation, and in most cases personal misconduct – however hurtful – is not enough to affect it. Prolonging your case by seeking reparations for unreasonable behaviour is unlikely to change this fact, though it will almost certainly increase your legal costs and stress levels.

The best way to deal with bad conduct is to rely on the expertise and support of your solicitor to negotiate a realistic settlement, and work collaboratively with your ex to come to a fair decision. Out-of-court techniques like mediation Thames Valley, arbitration and collaborative family law can be very effective, helping couples to work through their relationship disputes and find a mutually beneficial resolution. The emphasis on cooperation means that issues are approached with less animosity and compromises are more easily made. Couples counselling may also be useful to help you navigate past the emotional impact of bad conduct and reduce the risk of it complicating the process of separation. (Although it’s important to remember that your solicitor or mediator cannot act as your relationship therapist!)

Visit our blog for more information on unreasonable behaviour and divorce without blame, or contact the team at Frances Lindsay & Co – experienced family law solicitors based in the Thames Valley – to discuss your situation and options.

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