The value of assets distributed between divorcing couples may subsequently go up or down and that can lead to one spouse or the other feeling hard done by. A family judge’s ruling showed, however, that they generally have to take the rough with the smooth. Stuart Barton looks at a recent case. In financial remedy proceedings following the breakdown of a middle-aged couple’s marriage, assets worth about £1.5 million were divided between them. The husband was directed to transfer 40 per cent of his occupational pension to the wife. The pension then had a cash equivalent value of £826,125. Due to a series of further financial disputes that arose between them, the marriage was only formally brought to an end by a decree absolute more than six years later. The pension sharing order had yet to come into effect and, in the interim, the value of the pension had ballooned to £1,795,362.
The husband took the view that, as a result of that increase, the wife would receive more than she should. He applied to the judge to vary the pension sharing order so that she would receive only 17 per cent of the pot. Dismissing his application, however, the judge found that he had failed to establish that the increase in the pension’s cash equivalent value represented such a dramatic change in anticipated circumstances as to render it unjust or impracticable to hold him to the terms of the pension sharing order.
The variation proposed took no account of the effects of inflation or changes in market conditions and would be very unfair to the wife. The increase in the pension’s value promised an even greater windfall to the husband in that the value of his 60 per cent share had gone up 1.5 times. It was predominantly the husband’s actions that had caused the long delay in the pension sharing order taking effect. The heavy legal costs of the case represented a tragedy for the former couple and their families and the judge observed that it was high time that a line was drawn under the seemingly endless litigation between them. If you are divorcing, a number of issues may arise on which sound legal advice is essential. We can talk you through alternative dispute resolution options, to help mitigate the need for expensive and drawn-out court proceedings.