Equal division of assets following divorce has long been the general rule, but there are exceptions. In one case, the Court of Appeal decided in a ‘big money’ case that the brevity of a childless marriage, during which the husband and wife largely kept their finances separate, justified a departure from the norm.
The primary source of the former couple’s wealth was £10.5 million in bonuses that the commodities trader wife had earned in just five years. Her rewards had enabled them to lead a lavish lifestyle and, towards the end of the marriage, the husband had taken redundancy and devoted himself to refurbishing their two homes.
The marriage lasted only four years, foundering after the wife discovered that the husband was having a clandestine affair. The assets that stood to be divided in their divorce were worth £5.45 million and a judge decided that the husband should have half of that, or £2.725 million.
In allowing the wife’s appeal, the Court found that a departure from the equal sharing principle was justified. Effectively all of the marital property had been generated by the wife. The couple had no children during a short marriage and there had been little inter-mingling of their wealth, in that they had tended to earn and spend their own money. The Court found that the husband was entitled to £2 million, made up of a £1.1 million house and a £900,000 capital sum.