Big Money Divorce – Husband Pays for Failing to Engage in Proceedings

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Many divorcees feel that their ex-spouses have over-egged their financial demands. Stuart Barton looks at a High Court ruling in a so-called ‘big money’ case which showed, however, they can hardly expect much weight to be given to such claims if they fail constructively to engage in court proceedings.

The case concerned a couple whose marriage lasted almost 20 years, yielding two children. They enjoyed a high standard of living and moved between comfortable homes in the UK and abroad. However, by far the largest assets at stake in their divorce were business interests that the husband had inherited from his father.

Following a hearing at which the husband was neither present nor represented, the Court noted that he had failed to engage in the financial remedy proceedings. He had not done what he could and should have done if he believed the wife’s claims were exaggerated. He had the opportunity to come to court and cause the wife to be cross-examined about what she was saying but did not take it.

In the event, the Court accepted the wife’s broad assessment that the husband’s business assets had a net value of £180 million. Given that they were inherited, the Court ruled that 50 per cent of that sum should not form part of the overall marital pot to be divided. The wife had, however, played a leadership role in the business and was entitled to an equal share of the remaining 50 per cent.

The former couple jointly owned an overseas property with a net equity of almost £6 million. In addition, the wife had assets worth about £4 million. Even after leaving 50 per cent of the value of his business interests out of account, the husband’s assets came to over £92 million. In accordance with the sharing principle, the Court ordered the husband to transfer title to two residential properties to the wife and pay her a lump sum of almost £40 million.

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