When is a short marriage not a short marriage?

When there has been pre-marriage cohabitation or a child born in the marriage. Under section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 one of the regards the Court has to consider is “the age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage”. There appears to have been a change in approach since the decision of GW v RW (2003) so that the current view is that “where a relationship moves seamlessly from cohabitation to marriage without any major alteration in the way the couple live then the years of pre-marriage cohabitation should be added to the length of the marriage.”

It should be remembered that although the Courts may now treat the commencement of the cohabitation in a settled relationship as the appropriate start date, at the other end of the line Courts will look at the date of separation as the true date at the end of the marriage as opposed to subsequent pronouncement of Decree Absolute. That invariably is the case and the approach was again upheld by the Court in GW v RW.

Professionals should therefore remember that it is important to obtain details of the period of the cohabitation from clients when first meeting with them.

For further information or to talk to one of our Family Law Team contact your nearest Ringrose Law Office in Boston, Gratham, Lincoln, Sleaford, Spalding and Newark.

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