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What are ‘needs’ in divorce

Every family is different when it comes to assessing needs. That is because, luckily, we are all very different.  One family may have had the luxury of several expensive holidays per year, whereas for another it might be very different.  That is why the court considers needs on an individual basis.  The court will take into account the “reasonable” standard of living enjoyed by the parties during their marriage when assessing their future needs, as well as the available resources.

needs in divorce

Bradie Pell, partner and head of Graysons’ family team

Judges can sometimes be inconsistent here; some talk about needs as being ‘reasonable requirements’ other say needs are to be ‘generously interpreted’.  So, it isn’t always just about meeting the bare essentials; formulating a comprehensive budget that includes an allowance for clothing, holidays, entertainment, presents and so on can be necessary.  What is clear is that financial needs are relative.

In a divorce case, each party is required to provide a list of their current and anticipated income needs and these lists can be crucial pieces of evidence in the case.   It must be remembered that it is what parties “need” rather than what a person may “want.”  As well as day to day living, the court will also include consideration of the housing needs of each party (and any children) such as; does each party “need” two four-bedroom houses, will the “pot” stretch that far and what can each party reasonably afford.  These are all factors within divorce cases.

It is therefore very important to get an overview of your needs right first time and legal advice is highly recommended. Clients often forget about items of expenditure which aren’t regularly paid by monthly direct debit, for example.  Whilst it’s important to be thorough, it’s also important not to ‘overegg it’, as the opponent’s legal team will scrutinise each item of expenditure and challenge anything considered excessive or untrue. Your needs should therefore not be a wish list – you need to be able to substantiate the requirements.  If the court finds that you have exaggerated your income needs, this could damage your credibility as a whole when dealing with other aspects of the case.

The very fact that each family is so different means it’s impossible to predict an outcome or come up with a formula as there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.   This means that lawyers will continue to scrutinise and argue about their respective clients’ needs when dividing up the matrimonial pot and assessing any maintenance requirements on divorce.  Needs are just one of the many factors that are considered in a divorce case and as such, it is really important to obtain legal advice at the outset so that you are fully informed as to how your individual case may be approached.

If you would like further advice, please contact one of our experts now. You can find more information about divorce and separation on our website.

Author: Bradie Pell, partner and head of the family team.

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