Need Overcomes Equality Claim in Divorce Settlement

With new guidance having been issued regarding the interpretation of 'need' for the purpose of financial settlements on divorce, a recent case shows how the courts have been moving away from a rigid adherence to the principle of 'equality' in the division of assets.

It involved a wealthy couple who had in excess of £10 million in assets when they commenced divorce proceedings 14 years after they married. The ex-husband argued that his former wife's claim for a half share of the assets was not appropriate because he already owned their main asset – a care home business – when they married.

He claimed that the business was worth an estimated £5.6 million when they married. His ex-wife claimed that it was almost valueless and was only restored to a solid financial footing by virtue of her hard work. She argued that a 50:50 split of assets would be fair, since their wealth had been built up jointly. She also claimed that her former husband had promised her a 50:50 split of assets.

The Family Court did not accept her argument and decided instead that the division should be based on her appropriate level of need. The judge ruled that the ex-wife should receive £1 million to provide housing and £1.3 million to provide income.