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In divorce, when does a marriage "start"?

View profile for Melanie Loxley
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I was interested to read the recent case of IX v IY [2018] which considered the question ‘when does a marriage ‘start’?’ in the context of calculating the length of a marriage for the purposes of the divorce.

When a marriage breaks down, it is well established under English Law that the court will include time living together before marriage as part of the length of the marriage. So for instance, if a couple lives together in a committed relationship for 15 years and then marry, before separating 2 years later, the court is likely to view it as a 17 year marriage rather than a short, 2 year marriage.

This is important when resolving financial claims upon divorce. The court takes into account the length of the marriage when working out how finances should be divided. In a short marriage, the court will often try to place individuals back in the position they were in before they married. After a long marriage, the court is far less interested in who contributed what to the pot many years ago, and is likely to take the starting point that the assets should be divided equally.

However, in the case of IX v IY, the couple did not live together before the marriage and it could not, therefore, be said that there was ‘seamless cohabitation’ in advance of that date. In any case, the court took the length of the relationship into account when working out the length of the marriage.

In a divorce proceedings, the court can either add the length of a relationship to the length of the marriage to establish a longer marriage, or take into account the length of the relationship and add weight to this, as one of the circumstances of the case.

I think there may more references to the length of a relationship before the date of marriage, in cases going forward!

Birkett Long has a team of specialist divorce and separation lawyers. Our divorce solicitors can advise you on the complexities of how to resolve the financial issues that arise upon divorce. If you need advice, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free, no obligation 15 minute chat.

I am based in our Colchester office and can be contacted on 01206 217384 or mel.loxley@birkettlong.co.uk.

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