Mansfield Appeal ‘Shows How Needs Come First In Separation’

Case Puts Divorce Issues Into The Spotlight

10.10.2011

A woman’s successful appeal to gain access to compensation paid out to her ex-husband after he lost a leg in a road traffic collision highlights how the needs of separated parties come first in a divorce, according to a family law expert at Irwin Mitchell.

The Court of Appeal ruled that Kevin Mansfield had to pay £285,000 of his £500,000 award to his former wife Cathryn, after Lord Justice Thorpe stated that her needs and those of their two children should come before his.

Mr Mansfield was given compensation in 1998 after suffering serious injuries in crash several years earlier. However, he met his wife in 2003, which meant that concerns had been raised that she was gaining access to funds that pre-dated their relationship.

However, John Nicholson, a Partner and family law specialist based at Irwin Mitchell’s London office, said the Appeal Court’s final decision on this case has provided clarity on how cases like this will be treated in the future.

He explained: “Ultimately, this case re-emphasises how need is shown to be more important than sharing. The fundamental point here is the conflicting pull between the needs of minor children, which are legally the court’s primary consideration, and the needs of Mr Mansfield following his crash.

“However, while the Court of Appeal explained there is no right answer to this, it is clear that the assets representing the damages award are not to be ring-fenced.

“Like inheritances, they are part of the assets of the marriage and go into the pot, although they are liable to be given a different emphasis and are not necessarily subject to the sharing principle in the way that other assets may be.”

John added that while this case has provided some clarity, there were still some further questions to be asked when it comes to personal injury awards and separation.

He outlined: “Interestingly, it is difficult to work out how the court would approach a lump sum provided for loss of earnings over a working lifetime in the event of a divorce.

“Presumably the court would simply capitalise an appropriate percentage of the earnings that the injured party had used as the basis for the calculation of his or her original injury claim.

“It will be interesting to follow how this issue is considered by the Courts going forward.”