Highly unusual divorce ruling – Wife gets the lot
When a couple divorces, either person can ask the Court to decide how the family assets should be shared. It is often said that in a divorce finance case, the starting point for the Court is to share the assets equally unless the family’s circumstances are such that there should be a departure from equality to reach a fair settlement for both parties and any children of the family.
However, the Court of Appeal recently upheld a Family Court decision that gave a wife 100% of the assets following divorce. This is a very rare situation and follows the particular circumstances of the case.
The Family Court heard that the husband, who was a hospital consultant, left his wife and two children in 2011, moved to Bahrain where he started a relationship with another woman, underwent an Islamic marriage ceremony and had another child. The wife complained that she had not received any child support since then. The Family Court decided it was fair that she should receive the proceeds of the sale of the family home together with all the money held in the bank on the basis that the husband had effectively abdicated responsibility for his family and in the future there was no realistic prospect of getting any further maintenance paid by husband.
The husband appealed on the basis that the Judge had effectively added up all future maintenance payments and paid them to the wife in one go and this was wrong because the husband had offered to pay child maintenance for the children. The Court of Appeal disagreed, ruling that the original Judge was entitled to conclude that there was no realistic expectation of getting any further maintenance from the husband. The Appeal Court said that the Judge was right to give first consideration to the welfare of the children and so it was appropriate to award the wife the lion’s share, if not all of the assets, to make provision for housing the children and bringing them up.
As ever, this divorce case was decided on the specific circumstances of the family. It illustrates the point that there is no one size fits all solution to family cases and so it is essential for separating couples to obtain individual bespoke advice on their own particular situation.
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