Family Judge Deeply Regrets Wealthy Ex-Couple's Inability to Compromise

6th July 2021 By

Judges often plead with divorcing couples to bury the hatchet rather than subject themselves to the financial and emotional self-harm of litigation. As a High Court case showed, however, such good advice is sadly not always heeded.

The case concerned a couple who worked together in their construction business and, from small beginnings, built up an enviable property portfolio. They had three children and, more than a decade after their separation, they remained legally married. They had obtained a decree nisi but no decree absolute.

Two years after their relationship ended, they reached an amicable agreement by which they sought to divide their assets. The husband retained the business, which had since prospered mightily. The current position was that he had a net worth of £12,450,000. The wife, whose net worth was £1,625,000, launched proceedings seeking at least £5 million from him.

Ruling on the matter, a judge observed that divorce proceedings could not have got off to a worse start: the couple had been separated for over nine years when the wife petitioned for divorce without any prior warning to the husband. He suffered the utmost hurt and distress as a result of her unnecessarily aggressive conduct. The judge, however, ruled that she should not be penalised for that.

He acknowledged that, were it not for the post-separation agreement, the wife would have been entitled to a substantial capital sum from the husband. The equal sharing principle would have applied to the case, albeit focused on the assets at the date of their separation and heavily discounted to take account of the husband’s post-separation success in expanding the business.

The existence of the agreement could not, however, be ignored and the judge was not prepared to agree with the wife’s assertion that the husband had cheated her. Overall, he found that it would be fair and reasonable to require the husband to pay the wife a £600,000 lump sum, or to transfer to her assets of equivalent value. He could well afford such a payment and, after making it, he would remain very significantly richer than the wife.

The judge noted that, more than once during the case, he had implored the couple to settle their differences rather than press ahead with a six-day trial. He deeply regretted their failure to take that course. Although they had been well served by their legal teams, their inability to compromise had caused untold damage to the whole family. They had incurred legal costs of at least £500,000.

Source: Concious

Latest News

Challenge to Will's Validity Rejected by High Court

12th April, 2024 By

The best way to ensure your assets will be distributed as you wish is to have your will professionally drafted by a qualified solicitor. In a recent case, a challenge to the validity of an elderly man's will was dismissed by the High Court. The man had previously made a will in 2011, leaving most of his estate equally to his three children. In 2018, by which time one of his sons had predeceased him, he made a further will, leaving the residue of his estate to his other son...

Defiance of Family Court Orders Will Always End Badly

10th April, 2024 By

Custodial sentences very rarely come into play in the family courts. Where there have been repeated breaches of court orders, however, judges may have little choice but to clamp down. This was illustrated in the High Court during committal proceedings that stemmed from a child custody dispute. The background to the case involved contested proceedings between the father and mother of a young child. These concluded with a court order establishing that the child – a daughter – would live with the mother. Three months later the daughter travelled with...

Claim for SDLT Relief on Annex Unsuccessful

8th April, 2024 By

When buying a property consisting of more than one residence, it may be possible to claim multiple dwellings relief (MDR) against Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT). However, there are certain conditions that must be met for an MDR claim to succeed, as a recent case illustrates. A property was purchased for £1.8 million. Prior to the purchase, the buyer had agreed with the seller that he would be allowed to carry out works to construct a self-contained annex at the property. The buyer's SDLT return included a claim for MDR...

Divorce – Alleged Bigamy Raised in Financial Remedies Dispute

5th April, 2024 By

The issue of bigamy and its potential impact on a person's ability to seek financial remedies in a divorce came under the legal spotlight recently. A husband made an application to strike out his wife's financial remedies claim on the basis that she had committed bigamy and deceived him into a marriage when she knew she was not free to marry. This deceit, he claimed, was so egregious that, as a matter of public policy, she should be debarred from pursuing any claim for financial remedies against him. The husband based...