Equal division of assets remains the starting point

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Courts have awarded the estranged wife of a former oil and gas trader £453m in what is thought to be one of the largest divorce settlements awarded in the UK.

The couple had been married for just over 20 years having met in Moscow in 1989.  The husband tried to argue that the marriage had ended in 1999 and that any claim by the Wife “should be based on wealth generated at the latest up to 2004 but not thereafter”. The Husband had sold his business for $1.4bn in 2012 and so if he had successfully argued this then it would have had a large impact on the assets available to be divided.

The Husband was also trying to argue that he had made a “stellar contribution” to the matrimonial pot again in a bid to move away from equal division of assets.

The Judge found that the Husband had “failed to prove any valid reasons or ‘departure points’ which would justify the matrimonial property being divided other than equally 50:50.”  It was shown that the Husband had bought the Wife jewellery worth €400,000 and gave her unrestricted use of his credit cards, even letting her use his yacht, plane and helicopter in that time.  The Judge found this to be evidence that the couple lived as Husband and Wife until 2013.

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave concluded that “I find that this entire wealth is matrimonial in character, i.e. it was acquired and built up during the long marriage by H and W’s equal contributions to the welfare of the family, and should be subject to the sharing principle.”  The value of the matrimonial pot in this case was found to be £1,092,334,626.  The Wife has been awarded 41.5% of the marital assets.

This case reinforces the court’s position that there is a high threshold to cross in order to successfully argue special contribution.  The starting point is equal division of assets and any movement from equality needs to be fully justified.

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