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Anyone tempted to hide their assets in divorce proceedings should take careful note of a case in which a businessman paid a £2.7 million price for his failure to be frank with his ex-wife. She was awarded the sum more than a decade after the end of the marriage due to the husband’s deceit at the time.
During their 18-year marriage, the couple had established a fashion business in their garage which, by the time of their divorce in 2005, was turning over £1 million a year. In subsequent years, the business had grown dramatically, had branches around the country and turned over about £30 million a year.
The wife had received a £150,000 lump sum after the end of the marriage and sole ownership of the former marital home, valued at £700,000. The husband argued that she had agreed that those arrangements should represent a binding clean break. However, in 2015, a judge ordered him to pay the wife an additional £2.7 million.
The judge found that the controlling and dominant husband had failed to make full disclosure of his assets to his vulnerable wife, who had felt bullied and intimidated by him. In particular, he had told her that he was moving into a rented home following their separation, although he in fact owned the property. Consequently, the alleged agreement was not the product of free and informed negotiation and was of no effect.
In dismissing the husband’s challenge to that decision, the Court of Appeal agreed that there had been no concluded agreement. Given the wife’s involvement in the business in its early days, and her huge contribution as home-maker and carer for the couple’s three children, the award was fair. It represented between 27 per cent and 30 per cent of the husband’s total wealth.