Equality Principle Upheld in £240 Million Divorce Case

Marital assets are generally divided equally between divorcing couples, but there are some ‘big money’ cases where a stellar earner’s financial contribution to a marriage is considered so exceptional that a departure from the norm is justified. The Court of Appeal considered that issue in an important test case concerning a finance professional who earned £240 million in little more than a decade.

The former couple had been married for almost 20 years and had two children together. Both had been modest earners before the husband completed an MBA course and obtained a job with a private equity firm. Despite their high expenditure - including almost £3 million on divorce proceedings - their fortune still amounted to over £180 million by the time their divorce was finalised.

As well as being a home maker and mother to their children, the wife had supported the husband during his studies. In awarding her half of the marital wealth, a family judge found that they had formed a strong and equal partnership. Each of them had contributed emotionally and financially to the marriage and the judge found that an unequal division would amount to unjustifiable gender discrimination.

The husband argued that he should have received a 61 per cent share of the marital assets to reflect the enormous wealth that he had generated. In dismissing his appeal, however, the Court ruled that his financial contribution was not so wholly exceptional as to justify a departure from equality. The judge was in the best position to assess the evidence and had fully explained his conclusions.