The parties disputed an ancillary relief claim on their divorce. The husband had been suicidally depressed. The wife had committed adultery over a long time and also assisted her husband’s failed suicide. The husband now sought to rely upon her behaviour, saying it would be inequitable to ignore it.
Held: The husband’s appeal was allowed. The court was obliged to consider the behaviour of both parties. The wife’s deceit had been motivated by gain, and it would be wrong to ignore it. Referring to section 23(2)(g) (Purchas LJ): ‘The section refers to ‘the conduct of each of the parties’ and this must relate to relevant conduct and does not envisage one or the other being blameless . . The court is entitled, in my judgment, to look at the whole of the picture, including the conduct during the marriage and after the marriage which may or may not have contributed to the breakdown of the marriage or which in some other way makes it inequitable to ignore the conduct of each of the parties. A clear example of such a case is where the parties may each not have been blameless (almost inevitably in a normal marriage) but where the imbalance of conduct one way or other would make it inequitable to ignore the comparative conduct of the parties’.
‘The conduct of the wife not only in actively assisting or, alternatively, taking no steps to prevent the husband’s attempts at suicide in the presence of the motive of gain which the registrar found on ample evidence to be established, together with her wholly deceitful conduct in relation to her association with Gregory, would amount to conduct of a gross and obvious kind which would have fallen within the concept under the old law and, in my judgment, could certainly render it inequitable to ignore it even against the conduct of the husband which contributed to the unhappy conditions which existed during the marriage and afterwards as a result of the husband’s manic depression.’ W’s lump sum was reduced accordingly.
Purchas, Nicholls and Russell LJJ
 Fam 145,  3 WLR 1114,  3 All ER 1041,  FCR 325,  Fam Law 86, (1988) 152 JPN 223, (1987) 84 LSG 3529
Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 25(2)(g), Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 3
England and Wales
Cited – Vasey v Vasey CA 1985
The wife had deserted her husband. The magistrates reduced her maintenance saying that her behaviour was gross and obvious.
Held: Her appeal was upheld. The magistrates should have first made findings on each element listed in 3(1) and only . .
Cited – Wachtel v Wachtel CA 8-Feb-1973
The court described the 1969 and 1970 Acts as ‘a reforming statute designed to facilitate the granting of ancillary relief in cases where marriages have been dissolved . . We regard the provisions of sections 2,3, 4 and 5 of the Act of 1970 as . .
Cited – Hall v Hall CA 1984
After divorce proceedings had commenced, the wife visited the husband, then living with someone else, and stabbed him. She now appealed an order for maintenance reduced because of her conduct.
Held: The conduct was clearly gross and obvious, . .
Cited – M v M (Financial Provision: Conduct) 1981
W had been confined to a mental institution after being found not guilty of the murder of her two children by reason of insanity. Her release on conditional discharge was anticipated, and application was made to vary the maintenance order.
Cited – Robinson v Robinson (Practice Note) CA 2-Jan-1982
The husband was a serving soldier who had had various postings abroad. The wife returned home, where she discovered that she was pregnant. He followed her home, but she left him, and applied for maintenance. The justices found that she had deserted . .
These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 14 January 2021; Ref: scu.235269