Equal division or greed?

Relationship breakdown

posted: 22nd May 2017

In the UK, you have to initiate divorce proceedings before you can deal with the matrimonial assets – this includes the matrimonial home, businesses, joint bank accounts, any additional properties and shares etc. There are two ways in which finances can be concluded – either by way of Consent Order (this is an agreement reached between the parties that is then sent to court for approval) or you can proceed through the court process whereby the judge may have the ultimate decision on what share you receive from the matrimonial pot.

Here at PMC Family Law solicitors in Liverpool, we are able to provide you with expert legal advice and guide you through the divorce process. To do this, it is necessary to consider the Matrimonial Causes Act with an aim of achieving fairness between the parties. If your case proceeds to court then this is the process that the judge will follow whilst applying their wide discretion to determine what settlement is suited to your case in the event an agreement cannot be reached.

This was the case in Hart v Hart. The parties had begun living together in 1983 and married in 1987. Their marriage lasted for 20 years until 2011 when divorce proceedings were commenced. The parties had two children and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle throughout the marriage. The case concluded before His Honour Judge Wildblood who departed from equality awarding the wife 37% and husband 63% of their £10 million fortune. This provided the wife with just over £3.5 million to meet her reasonable needs and reflected the husband’s wealth before the union of £2.6 million.

Both the husband and wife appealed the decision. The husband argued that the wife should receive less as she had been living with her new partner as husband and wife and he felt he should support her. Meanwhile, the wife argued that she was not awarded enough and asked the court to grant her a further £1.5 million provision on the basis that the decision was ‘unfair and discriminatory’.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the husband’s appeal on the basis that he had ‘no reasonable, arguable, basis of challenge’. The court also considered whether the husband would be prejudiced in the wife’s appeal if his appeal was not allowed and concluded that this was not the case.

The wife is now arguing that the Judge should not have based the share of the matrimonial pot on her needs, but should have treated her as an equal partner who was equally responsible for the wealth of the family. Counsel for the wife argued ‘marriage is a partnership of equals and if you build up a pot together, you should share equally in that pot’.

Meanwhile, the husband is arguing that the wife agreed that he was wealthy at the time of the marriage and that the judge made a judgement based on the totality of the evidence which was the correct approach. As such, because of the husband’s substantial pre-existing wealth, this justified a departure from equality in this case. They further argued that the wife ‘has a home, a holiday home, a lifetime income at a very considerable figure and is clear of liabilities’.

Lord Justice Beatson, Lord Justice Moylan and Lord Justice Beatson have currently reserved their judgement to be delivered at a later date.

If you are having difficulties with your divorce or financial settlement or simply wish to obtain advice with regards to your legal position then contact PMC Family Law Solicitors today. You can contact us by telephone on 0151 375 9968 or email and we can arrange your free non-obligatory appointment today.

By: Lindsey Potter - Paralegal