Handbags and gladrags – “Needs” on separation and divorce”

Insights - 01/07/2016

You can’t always get what you want… but as the song goes, if you try then you might get what you need. The headline grabbing case of Estrada v Al-Juffali is certainly an interesting exploration of just how generously “need” might be interpreted.

By way of background, Mr Al-Juffali is the Respondent Husband in an application for a financial settlement brought by his former Supermodel Wife and (after no small amount of jurisdictional wrangling) currently before the High Court in London.

The marriage apparently broke down in 2014 when Ms Estrada discovered that he had married a second wife, as is permissible under certain interpretations of Islamic law.

Mr Al-Juffali’s fortune comes from inheritances and trusts arising from a family business and, whilst the extent of his wealth is disputed, Ms Estrada is not running a claim that assets should be shared but instead is asking for a settlement to meet her needs.

The question being considered by the court and now providing fodder for the tabloids is just what does Ms Estrada need? Information leaked to the media suggests her annual budget includes:

£109k  7 couture dresses

£83k    15 cocktail dresses

£80k    1 ball gown

£58k    2 luxury handbags

£23k    6 casual handbags

£40k    1 fur coat

£4k      15 pairs of sunglasses

For those of us who manage on more modest budgets and just the one pair of sunglasses, the list may seem excessive! The pertinent point is that according to Ms Estrada, this is the level of spending that she has enjoyed during the 13 years marriage and she is therefore simply asking for this to be maintained.

There is no statutory definition of needs and so the Court’s discretion in making this assessment is wide. However the Law Commission’s Report on Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements suggests that:

The objective is, and should be, to enable the parties to make a transition to independence, in a way that takes account of the choices made within the marriage or civil partnership, its length, the parties’ ongoing shared responsibilities (for example, for any children), the need for a home and the standard of living during the relationship”

In family law, the concept of needs is therefore elastic and will be considered on the specific facts of the case -if the lifestyle during a medium or long term marriage was extravagant and the funds are there for this way of life to be maintained, the interpretation of needs is likely to be far more generous than in the average case where resources are more limited and compromises and cuts often have to be made.

At Morrisons we have a team of experienced family lawyers who deal with financial issues arising from separation and divorce, and we work with you to ensure that you get a settlement that will meet you needs.

If you would like advice or assistance on any of the issues raised in this blog please contact Anne McAllister for a confidential initial discussion. Anne is a family law specialist and can be contacted by email [email protected]  or telephone 0208 9711080. Please also visit our website for more information www.morrlaw.com

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Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this newsletter/blog are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute, legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.