“A man left disabled after a road crash could be forced to sell his home after a judge ordered him to hand more than half his compensation payout to his ex-wife.”
This intro from a story in the Daily Mail last week is the type of thing that makes me angry. Not the fault of the Mail (on this occasion!) but more the original decision of a judge which sends the wrong message and puts family law in a bad light. Divorce and divorce lawyers don’t need any help, generally speaking, on that front.
In this case, it was the initial ruling that did the damage. However, Appeal court judges have now given the ex-husband leave to appeal against the “injustice” of the original settlement.
Kevin Mansfield, aged 41, lost a leg and suffered serious spinal injuries when he was hit by a car in Cornwall 1992. He received £500,000 compensation in 1998, five years before he met Cathryn, aged 37. They married in 2003 and had two children but split up five years later.
A court ruled that the divorce should see Cathryn awarded more than half the damages payment (£285,000), even though it was intended specifically to make Mr Mansfield’s life easier.
Interestingly, at the hearing last week where Mr Mansfield was given leave to appeal, the judges suggested he and his wife should seek to reach an out of court settlement on the matter through mediation. This would avoid the crippling fees of a full appeal which would make a huge dent in the assets. I find it encouraging that mediation is now being recommended at the highest level to resolve family law issues.
In considering a settlement, the family court has to weigh up the assets, needs of the children, the wishes of the wife and the reality of the situation for a person left disabled and awarded a payout to help them have a good quality of life. It is not about them really being compensated, but just being given money to help them live. No yachts or mansions, but less worry about how to support yourself, adaptations to the home and any ongoing care or equipment. In these circumstances, is it fair to dispassionately treat the compensation payout simply as part of the pot of assets for the couple?