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Misconduct that affects money

It’s an accepted principle that serious bad behaviour – qualifying generally for the description “obvious and gross” is capable of being taken into account in financial case. But what does that mean?

It is an area that has had some colourful and sometimes downright unpleasant behaviour in the past but in general it requires a level of behaviour way beyond that encountered in most relationships. The everyday gripes and grumbles of relationships don’t fit the bill. However, attacking a spouse with a razor, stabbing, attempted murder and rape or attempted rape have all met the test.

In a couple of cases which sum up the requirement as well as any the court said that the behaviour must not cause someone hearing about it simply to “gulp” but to experience a “gasp”. So, the behaviour must be sufficiently shocking to be barely believable and make the general public think that to ignore it would be incredible. A classic was the case in which the wife hired a hitman to kill the husband. That did not impress the judge and was rightly not ignored.

In more modern terms the phrase “That’s gross!” is heard relatively readily. If it can genuinely be applied without exaggeration to what has happened it might just fit the bill.

With thanks to Prof Polly Morgan for an article in Family Law, October 2023.

Ian Stirzaker is the Senior Partner and Head of Family Law at SME Solicitors. Please contact him, Joanna Gardner or Denise McCabe for specialist help and advice in all aspects of family law at or or

Added: 24 May 2024 10:04

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