Barder Events in Divorce Settlements

emily gordon brown
Emily Gordon BrownLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 11th July 2024

Life is unpredictable, and sometimes significant events happen after a divorce that can drastically change your circumstances.

In family law, these unforeseen, significant changes are known as Barder events.

If you're dealing with major changes in your life post-divorce and are wondering if you can revisit your settlement, this article will help you understand Barder events, the criteria involved, and how they can impact your divorce settlement.

What is a Barder Event?

A Barder event is an unexpected and significant event that happens shortly after a divorce settlement, fundamentally changing the fairness of the settlement.

This concept comes from the 1987 case of Barder v Barder. In this case, a tragic event occurred where the wife killed the children and herself shortly after the divorce settlement. This unforeseen event led to the reopening and alteration of the settlement.

What events qualify as Barder events?

For an event to qualify as a Barder event, it must meet the following criteria:

  • The event must invalidate the assumptions on which the original settlement was made.

  • It should happen shortly after the settlement, typically a few months.

  • The application to revisit the settlement must be made promptly after the event.

  • Revisiting the settlement shouldn't unfairly affect third parties who have gained interests in good faith.

Only a very small percentage of applications for Barder events are successful due to the stringent criteria and cautious judicial approach.

What doesn't count as a Barder event?

Market Fluctuations

Changes in the value of assets due to normal market fluctuations, like a rise or fall in stock prices or property values, are generally not considered Barder events. The courts view these changes as foreseeable risks that come with owning assets.

An example of this can be seen in the case of Myerson v Myerson (2009) where the husband’s significant loss in the value of his shares due to the financial crisis was not deemed a Barder event. The court ruled that such market risks are foreseeable.

Employment Changes

Losing a job or experiencing a change in employment status is typically not enough to reopen a financial settlement. The courts consider employment changes to be a part of normal life risks that do not meet the strict criteria of a Barder event.

For example, in Maskell v Maskell (2001), the husband’s redundancy shortly after the financial order was made was not seen as a Barder event. The court emphasised that job security is never guaranteed and such changes are foreseeable.

General Misfortune

Events that can be reasonably anticipated, such as illness, general financial hardship, or other personal misfortunes, do not typically qualify as Barder events. These occurrences are considered part of the uncertainties of life.

Normal Financial Changes

Regular financial changes, like income fluctuations or changes in expenses, do not meet the criteria.

The courts look for extraordinary and unforeseen changes that could not have been anticipated during the original settlement.

Examples of Barder events

You might be wondering what a Barder event looks like in real life. Here are a few examples:

  • Significant changes in asset value

  • Death of a party involved in the settlement

  • Concealed remarriage or cohabitation

  • Unforeseen changes in health

Critchell v Critchell

In Critchell v Critchell (2015), the husband received a large inheritance shortly after the divorce settlement. This unexpected financial windfall significantly changed his financial situation, prompting the court to reconsider the original settlement.

Goodyear v Goodyear

In Goodyear v Goodyear (2022), the death of a spouse shortly after the settlement was deemed a Barder event. The court acknowledged that the death fundamentally altered the assumptions upon which the original order was made.

How to apply for a Barder event

If you believe you have experienced a Barder event, it’s a good idea to seek advice from a solicitor who specializes in family law to understand your options and likelihood of success.

To apply for a Barder event you must submit your application to the court as soon as possible after the event. You should be ready to present your case, demonstrating how the event fundamentally changes the fairness of the original settlement.

A solicitor can help you apply with the court that made the original order. This process involves submitting all collected evidence and making a case for why the order should be reconsidered.

How long do I have to apply for a Barder event?

You must apply promptly after the event occurs. Generally, the courts expect applications within a few months.

How can a Barder event affect my divorce settlement?

A successful Barder event application allows the court to revisit and potentially modify the original financial order. This means that the terms of the settlement could be changed to reflect the new circumstances.

The court may redistribute assets, modify maintenance payments, or alter other financial arrangements to ensure fairness in light of the unforeseen event.

Why are successful Barder event applications so rare?

Barder event applications are rarely successful due to the stringent criteria set out in the landmark case Barder v Barder and the courts’ cautious approach.

Courts are generally reluctant to reopen settled financial orders due to the need for finality and stability in legal agreements.

Allowing frequent modifications would create uncertainty and unpredictability in financial settlements, which flies in the face of the principles of family law.

If you believe a Barder event has impacted your divorce settlement, you should get expert legal advice as soon as possible to evaluate your case and make sure your application is as strong as possible to meet all the criteria.

Lawhive’s network of expert family law solicitors can help you better understand this process, ensuring your interests are protected and helping you achieve a fair outcome.

For more information or to seek legal advice, contact our Legal Assessment team today for a free case evaluation and get a quote for the services of a specialist lawyer.

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