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What is conduct in financial proceedings?



Financial proceedings in divorce refer to the three stage process the courts adopt in determining how a couple’s finances are separated. During this process, the court must have regard to a number of factors. One factor the court must have regard to is the conduct of each of the parties and whether that conduct is such that it would be in the opinion of the court inequitable to disregard it. This is defined in section s25(2)(g) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

Mediation for couples

The term “conduct” is used broadly and covers financial conduct e.g. dissipating assets, non-financial conduct e.g. abuse and litigation conduct e.g. unnecessary delaying court proceedings. As the conduct must meet the test of “inequitable to disregard”, this is a high threshold and the conduct must be sufficiently serious in order to have a bearing on the outcome in financial proceedings. An example of where non-financial conduct was considered to meet this threshold was in the case of K v L [2010], where the husband’s sexual abuse of two of his step-children resulted in the judge ruling in the wife’s favour. An example of where financial conduct was not considered to meet the threshold was in the case of JS v RS [2015] where the husband’s misappropriation of monies given to him for home improvements was not considered so serious as to justify a departure from equality.

The courts apply such a high threshold to the meaning of “conduct” as the focus throughout financial proceedings should not be on penalising a party for past events but instead on resolving the issues between the parties and ensuring that their future needs are met. However, if you think that any of the conduct examples given above apply to your situation, you should contact your solicitor to discuss the matter further.