The Solicitor - The FindLaw UK Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

British courts most generous with divorce payouts

According to new research, English and Welsh courts are the most generous when it comes to awarding maintenance payouts after divorce cases. Such settlements are not only higher-value than in many other countries, but also longer-lasting. London has earned the nickname "the divorce capital of the world", at least partly due to these high, long-lasting maintenance payments.

The report suggests this could be due to the fact that British judges are given more "judicial discretion" than in other jurisdictions, giving them greater freedom to dictate value and duration of maintenance payments. This holds true when they are compared to their counterparts in mainland European countries, along with those in the US, New Zealand and South Africa. Overall, the report looked at 15 jurisdictions and concluded that judges in Britain had the greatest levels of judicial freedom.

The report, which was researched and compiled by an international law firm, suggests in its closing statement that: "Most other jurisdictions apply a range of considerations to give judges scope and independence... but England and Wales stands out for the broad judicial discretion it applies in considering all aspects of each and every case."

The generosity of British courts in this area has not gone unnoticed internationally, and some couples from other jurisdictions have chosen to conduct their divorce proceedings in the UK for this reason. This fact has sharply divided opinion. Some insist it is a fairer way to deal with divorce, protecting spouses who may be financially disadvantaged by divorce, while others are claiming it gives some spouses an opportunity to receive larger payouts than they deserve.

The report itself took a positive view on this matter. It concluded that: "England has an international reputation as an attractive divorce forum for the financially weaker spouse, and we should be proud of the courts' efforts to reach a fair result in each and every case."

The report also suggested that it will be interesting to observe the impact that future reforms may have on this matter. The Law Commission is set to review UK family law in all fields, including divorce settlements, in an effort to ensure continued fair practice.

As well as British judges being granted a greater degree of judicial freedom, there are a range of differences in the way that different countries approach the matter of divorce. Notably, the concept of fault plays a very different role in some jurisdictions from that it holds in others. In some countries, fault is "a discretionary point". In others, such as Britain, it is seen as a vital part of the case, and factors such as adultery and desertion can form grounds for refusing a claim.

If you are considering a divorce, or would like to discuss your options with any other aspect of family law, K J Smith Solicitors can help. Our qualified, professional team can provide you with tailored advice about your situation. You can c all our team on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor), or 020 7070 0330 (Central London).