They say that over £500m is bet at Cheltenham Race Week every year which is a considerable amount of money. I have been left thinking of that statistic in the midst of dealing with a divorce case where gambling is likely to be a feature of the case.
I have been asked the question on occasions whether gambling losses by a spouse is taken into account by a court when considering how to divide assets on a divorce. In the majority of cases, the answer is usually a ‘no’ but there are exceptions and occasions where a spouse’s conduct will be considered by a court during the course of divorce proceedings.
What does divorce law say about gambling?
The law says that for one spouse’s conduct to be relevant within proceedings, it must be of a nature that would be ‘inequitable to disregard’. Any such behaviour needs to be ‘gross and obvious’ and that a right-minded member of society would say was of a level to justify a reduction or extinction of claims.
Will my spouse’s gambling losses be considered by a court during divorce proceedings?
There have been a number of reported cases where excessive or reckless spending has led to a reduction of the value of the matrimonial assets, leaving less in the pot to be divided. However, a court needs to be satisfied that there has been ‘wanton dissipation of assets’ in order to punish a person for their behaviour. A spouse’s gambling losses may therefore be considered by a court where it does have the ability to add-back assets that have been dissipated by a spouse. However, this will very much depend on the facts of the case.
Will my spouse have to disclose their gambling?
Yes. Each spouse owes a duty to the court to make full and frank disclosure of all material facts, documents and information relevant to the case. The consequences of non-disclosure can be serious. A spouse’s failure to provide disclosure may be considered as litigation misconduct and a court may draw adverse inferences from the non-disclosure.
Spouses may be keen to run conduct arguments and, whilst a court will consider all the facts of each case when deciding who gets what on a divorce, it is rarely the case that conduct is relevant within proceedings. If you are unsure whether conduct will have an impact on your divorce settlement, your solicitor will be able to advise you.