The question of who is to blame for the breakdown of a marriage is often uppermost in divorcees’ minds, but it is hardly ever relevant when it comes to fairly dividing up assets. The High Court made that point in the case of a husband who kept two families and for years conducted an affair under his wife’s nose.
During a marriage that lasted over 40 years and yielded three children, the husband achieved success in the retail and property sectors. For most of that time, he was enjoying a relationship with another woman, with whom he had two more children. He moved between his two families and, for at least 14 years prior to their separation, his wife lived with the knowledge of his double life.
In the light of that history, the wife understandably had no trust in the husband and felt unable to believe a word he said. The Court, however, emphasised that its role was not to express a view on where responsibility rested for the breakdown of the marriage but to achieve as fair a division of marital assets as possible.
Both of them could be criticised for their conduct of the proceedings: she had made numerous allegations of dishonesty and financial misbehaviour against him for which there was simply no evidence. He had insisted that the former matrimonial home, in which the wife lived, should be sold and had brought suspicion on himself by telling different people different things.
In order to achieve a clean break that was fair to both of them, the Court directed the husband to pay the wife a lump sum of £125,000. This would bring her total share of the assets, after debts were paid, to just over £900,000. He would be left with assets worth about £865,000. The Court noted that both of them were well into their sixties and that their financial position would have been significantly better had they not chosen to spend more than £600,000 between them fighting over the financial consequences of their divorce and other matters.