Wife loses appeal against unequal divorce settlement
A wife has lost her appeal against an unequal divorce settlement that gave her less than half the money awarded to her husband.
The couple had been married for 23 years and had two adult children. At the start of the marriage, the husband had considerable wealth, while the wife had very little.
During their marriage they increased their combined capital resources to £9.4m. The judge concluded that an equal division would be unfair because of the husband's pre-marital wealth. In considering how their assets were to be divided, he sought to apply the "formulaic approach" taken in previous landmark cases including Jones v Jones in 2011.
However, he was unable to apply that approach because there was no reliable evidence of the husband's pre-marital worth, resulting partly from his obstructive approach and deficient disclosure.
The judge therefore took a "multi-faceted" approach, involving four alternative analyses of the basis for a settlement. The approach calculating the wife’s financial needs produced the lowest figure, but the judge held that it was the most cogent and used it to calculate that she should be awarded £3.56m.
The Court of Appeal has upheld that decision. It said the judge had been entitled to find that the husband had substantial wealth at the start of the relationship and that an equal division would be unfair to him.
Moreover, the judge had not made a mistake in basing the award on a needs analysis. He considered the alternative calculations to be unreliable, and he had performed the exercise endorsed in Jones as a "cross-check".
He was entitled to conclude that anything higher than a needs-based award would not be fair.
Please contact Shelley Rolfe or Lorna Barry if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.