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RC v JC [2020] EWHC 466 (Fam) – Court orders compensation

Posted on 14 September 2020

The parties had both been solicitors – when they met, the husband was an associate, the wife a trainee (although became an associate during their relationship). Their relationship began three to four years later. Shortly afterwards, the husband became an equity partner. The wife became a managing associate, but after they began cohabiting, she moved to work in-house at a bank. Her case was that the parties had agreed that she would sacrifice her career to have a more child-friendly work schedule. She later moved to a part-time business role at the bank and was made redundant in 2006. She had not worked since. She had a history of anxiety and mental health issues, and the husband claimed that the wife would never have made partner. Moor J considered the wife's appraisals from her time in the firm and evidence regarding her position at that time. He considered it reasonably likely that she would have become a partner before having decided to move in-house and that that decision had been taken with H's encouragement. He had not wanted her to remain at the same firm as him.

Moor J quoted extensively from McFarlane v McFarlane, but also considered Waggott and SS v NS. He considered that the wife had given up at least the chance of a much higher salary. Her subsequent ill health was not relevant, as she had not had difficulties while working at the firm. Having already made orders based on need and sharing, Moor J ordered W to receive an additional £100,000 p.a. (to be paid as a lump sum) for H's remaining four years of likely work, by way of compensation for relationship-generated disadvantage.

Antonia Felix says: "Although Moor J considered the award of compensation to be the "exception" and that this judgment was not to be taken as any sort of "green light" to make such claims, in reality this may herald the return of compensation claims. The judgment confirms that in exceptional circumstances the principle of compensation still exists. It will be more important than ever to look at the cost benefit of pursuing such a claim given the weighty evidence required to substantiate them (no matter how strong the potential argument) and evidence will need to be collected as early as possible before Forms E are exchanged so that a decision can be taken. For some this is a welcome judgment which acknowledges the career sacrifice that many spouses make to be the main caregiver for their children, yet in an era where increasingly both parties to a marriage have potentially lucrative careers, some may question why the wife is being compensated for sacrificing her career whilst the husband sacrificed spending time with his children to provide for the family with no "compensation"."

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