Pearce v Pearce: CA 1980

H and W had separated in 1969 and for nine years the wife cared single-handedly for the three children. Until 1977 the husband was an undischarged bankrupt and had made no financial contribution to the running of the wife’s household, which was sustained by state benefits. In 1978 the husband inherited from his father a house worth andpound;19,000 and liquid capital of andpound;15,000. The wife then applied for an order for a lump sum.
Held: The Court upheld an award to her of a lump sum of andpound;12,000. Ormrod LJ, with whom Orr LJ agreed, said that courts would not encourage applications long after the divorce but that the justice of the case might require an award notwithstanding a lapse of time. He said: ‘One has here a husband who has never paid a penny piece for the maintenance of his former wife or his three children since, at the latest, 1969 and it means that the wife has lived in great difficulty on social security with all the responsibilities for bringing up these three girls unaided, all that length of time, so that on the merits, in my judgment, she has a strong case. Her claim on the merits certainly goes a long way to eliminating the contrary factor, the lapse of time.’ He continued: ‘The husband has never attempted to discharge his obligations in relation to these three children. The whole responsibility has been placed on the wife, whose life must have been made very difficult all these years. Is there any reason whatever why, now that the husband has come into a certain amount of money, she and the children should not have the opportunity of benefiting to some extent from it?’
In the light of his lack of contribution to the wife’s household, the fact that the husband’s capital had come to him by inheritance long after the separation was no ground for exempting it from partial redistribution to the wife and that the award gave her ‘an opportunity of perhaps living in something a little bit better than the poverty which she has been living in all these years’.
Ormrod LJ, Kay LJ
[1980] 1 FLR 261
England and Wales
Cited by:

  • Cited – Wyatt v Vince SC 11-Mar-2015
    Long delayed ancillary relief application proceeds
    The parties had divorced some 22 years before, but no ancillary relief order had been made to satisfy the application outlined in the petition. The parties when together had lived in relative poverty, but H had subsequently become wealthy. W applied . .
    [2015] UKSC 14, [2015] 1 FLR 972, [2015] 1 WLR 1228, [2015] Fam Law 524, [2015] 1 FCR 566, [2015] 2 All ER 755, [2015] WLR(D) 124, UKSC 2013/0186

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 03 December 2020; Ref: scu.544257