Divorce and Finances

A City banker has recently been ordered by a Judge to pay £453 million to his estranged wife.

This is obviously a big money case and not your “average” financial situation. However, the outcome of this case could have far reaching consequences for “average” money cases.

The circumstances surrounding this particular case are not unusual, save for the fact that the husband and wife were extremely wealthy! The parties had a long marriage of over 20 years. During the marriage the wife who was 44 had spent her time at home bringing up the couple’s two children.  Her argument was that she should be entitled to half the couple’s £1 billion fortune as she had provided an “equal contribution” towards the creation of that wealth.  By caring for the children she provided support to her husband whose career had gone from strength to strength.

The 61 year old husband argued that he was wealthy prior to the marriage and had financed the wife’s luxury lifestyle and he had made a “special contribution” towards the families overall wealth.

Fortunately for the wife and unfortunately for the husband the Judge in this case considered the wife’s position to be a true reflection of what happened during the marriage and awarded the wife 41.5 per cent of the “total marital assets”. (The wife already held assets £10,000,000.00 in her sole name which was taken into account in the final judgment).

The outcome of this case supports the notion that staying at home and caring for the children should be considered as important as working long hours on the trading floor.

The starting point for the Court to consider when deciding how matrimonial assets are divided is 50:50: Wealthy husbands have often used the argument that they have provided a “special contribution” to the matrimonial assets and therefore they should receive a greater proportion of those assets.  As proved in this particular case, hard work alone is not a sufficient test and the husband must show an exceptional and individual quality – a very difficult task!

The above case shows that the courts now recognise the importance of avoiding discrimination against the financial weaker party which has got to be good news for stay at home mothers (or fathers).