Former Spice Girl, Mel B, has recently gone through a very public separation from husband Stephen Belafonte. Headlines this week state that the Court in the US has ordered she make monthly ‘emergency spousal’ payments to her estranged spouse of somewhere in the region of £30,000.
Throughout the case, Mel B has insisted that Mr Belafonte subjected her to continual domestic abuse with some news outlets releasing photographs of Mel B with bruising and scars which they claim to be as a result of this abuse.
It may seem odd to some that in light of the above, Mel B is still expected to financially maintain her ex-partner. Surely after years of abuse and isolation, Mel B is not then expected to continue to fund his lifestyle, and a lavish one at that? In this case the proceedings actually took place in America, below we discuss how things may have finalised in the UK.
The way in which the UK Courts begin to look at divorce ‘settlements’ and ‘finances’ is that the martial assets are to be split 50/50. Rightly or wrongly, this starting point does not take into consideration the relationship background or factors behind the break-up. The Court generally will not make discounts to this rule for adultery, domestic abuse or desertion unless the abuse has been so severe it has prevented the other spouse from earning an income or gaining financial independence in the future.
The Court will simply look at which assets the parties have acquired throughout their marriage and look to divide them equally. This usually consists of martial homes, businesses, joint bank accounts, savings and investments. Once the assets have been divided and sold the parties will receive ‘settlements’ for their share of the total amount. This is a very simplistic way of explaining the process and it can prove to be a lot more complex. For instance, in some cases one party will retain rights over the family home home if, for example, they are to remain living there with their children.
In some cases, the Courts may decide that ‘spousal maintenance payments’ are more appropriate than a one off, lump sum settlement. This would usually apply in cases where one party earns considerably more than the other similarly to Mel B and Stephen Belafonte. This type of maintenance is only ever ordered in cases whereby the other party cannot afford to maintain their lifestyle after the departure of their spouse. In recent years there has been much debate as to how far the Court should go to maintain ‘lavish’ or ‘luxurious’ lifestyles, hence why so many commentators have felt the monthly amount awarded to Mr Belafonte to be ridiculous. Mel B’s own mother has spoken out and stated that she ‘is disgusted’ with the recent Order, stating that the amount is far too high and is an unreasonable expectation of her daughter.
These sorts of cases generally arise in high profile separations where the parties have a large net worth, with land mark rulings being made during the financial separation proceedings of Paul and Heather McCartney. Since then, the Courts in the UK are slowly moving away from the traditional position of maintaining spouses at this level and seek to do this in the short term whilst the other spouse rebuilds their life and finds a source of income of their own.
If you are going through a separation; whether it be a marriage, civil partnership or co-habitation, and have queries regarding your marital assets and finances, contact us on 0151 480 5777 for advice on your financial position and how to resolve matters.