Those who set out to deceive family judges in divorce proceedings rarely succeed and usually end up being hit hard in the pocket for their pains. Watson Ramsbottom Director & Solicitor Jonathan Leach looks at a case in which a successful buy-to-let property entrepreneur found that out to his cost when his ex-wife was awarded the lion’s share of the marital assets.
The middle-aged couple had three children during their 21-year marriage. Having started out with nothing, they built up a portfolio of 30 rental properties and lived a high-end lifestyle on the six-figure income they generated. The capital value of the properties was disputed but certainly ran into millions.
The portfolio was, however, heavily mortgaged and its net value was, according to the wife, only just over £75,000. That figure was disputed by the husband, who contended for a net value of £1.6 million. The family’s £900,000 home was also subject to a £580,000 mortgage.
The husband proposed selling the portfolio, the family home and all other marital assets. Claiming, amongst other things, that the wife had helped herself to cash from their joint bank account since their separation, he contended that he was entitled to the first £699,000 of the proceeds of sale, and that the balance should be divided equally.
In ruling on the matter, however, a family judge found that the husband had been happy to lie to the Court and had deliberately tried to hide assets worth hundreds of thousands of pounds or otherwise put them beyond the wife’s reach.
In rejecting his proposal, the judge noted that, if the wife’s valuation of the portfolio turned out to be correct, she would be left with nothing. As primary carer for the couple’s youngest child, aged eight, she would be bereft of income, with a limited earning capacity and no pension.
The judge ruled that the family home should be transferred to the wife on the basis that the husband would be released from his obligations under the mortgage. She was also awarded 18 of the rental properties. That was the fairest achievable outcome and gave the wife a chance to be independent.