A former financial agony aunt left penniless and on the brink of homelessness has lost her battle to get more money from a man she divorced more than 20 years ago.
Sacha Mullins worked for a woman’s magazine advising readers about their finances Photo: Paul Keogh
Sacha Mullins, 59 – who used to work for a woman’s magazine advising readers about their finances, offering hints and tips on how to look after their money – found herself almost destitute just months after her ex- husband sold his business for £2.6 million.
But she was denied a larger share of his wealth today after judges noted that the couple had been separated for “longer than most people are married”.
The Court of Appeal heard that her ex-husband, Worcestershire-based financial guru Peter Mullins, had been paying her approximately £24,000-a-year to fund her life and bring up their children since their 1992 divorce.
After he sold his wealth management business for £2.6 million Michael Horowitz QC ruled they should sever financial ties and consolidated all of her future maintenance into a £300,000 lump sum.
She attempted to appeal against the decision of the family judge, made last year, but her bid was today rejected.
Lord Justice Patten said: “There should be a clean break – they have been divorced longer than most people are married. This couple have got to put an end to this war. They have got to get on with their lives.”
He continued: “When this marriage ended, there was nothing, all of the husband’s wealth was built up again post-separation … She can’t expect to enjoy the standard of living which she would have had if they had stayed married.”
The court heard that, as the £300,000 is to be paid in instalments – and her maintenance stands at just 5p a year, pending arrival of the next tranche – she faces losing her Virginia Quays home, in London’s Docklands.
Her barrister, Oriel Hinds, told Lord Justice Patten that, after paying off mortgage arrears, she would be left with almost nothing to live on before the money comes through next year.
Mr Hinds, who accused Mr Mullins of still not having fully disclosed what he is worth, said Judge Horowitz had effectively asked his ex-wife to live on about £50-a-week in the meantime.
“What is she supposed to live on in these intervening months?” Mr Hinds asked the court.
“The judge knew she was facing repossession proceedings, he had seen the paperwork. She is likely to lose her property and that is her home.”
Mrs Mullins, who now runs a not-for-profit education through art business, and her 59-year-old ex-husband lived together for a decade, but were married for only a few years before they were divorced in 1992.
The businessman, of Hanley Castle, near Great Malvern, fought back after the divorce to turn his new financial services business, Bradley Stuart, into a success, counting the Ritz among its clients.
For years, he made payments to make sure that his ex had enough money to live on and to pay towards their children’s upkeep and school fees.
But, with the sale of his business looming, Judge Horowitz consolidated her future payments into the £300,000 lump sum, to be paid in three instalments, over two years, at each stage of the sale.
At the Court of Appeal, Mr Hinds argued that Judge Horowitz’s assessment of how much Mrs Mullins should get was flawed, since nobody knew exactly what her ex-husband is now worth.
He had admitted an approximate £230,000-a-year income, but had made provision for a tax bill of almost £200,000, suggesting his true income was much higher than that, the barrister said.
A sales agreement showed details of his corporate clients, but did not disclose anything about his private clients, which could have provided him with another £500,000-a-year in income, he claimed.
“Mr Mullins continually delayed and delayed and delayed. He downright refused to – or just didn’t – produce any of the details of the assets held jointly with his partner. That information just isn’t available,” he said.
“It was always the appellant’s case that there was not full disclosure by her ex-husband. So, when the judge made a decision about what he could or could not afford, he didn’t have a clear picture of what Mr Mullins was worth.”
Giving judgment, Lord Justice Patten refused permission for an appeal against the amount Mrs Mullins will eventually get, but granted leave to appeal the way that the money is to be paid.
He continued: “The wife has been left in the position under his order that she is required, in effect, to subsist throughout the remainder of this year with virtually no income at all.
“I think that it is at least reasonably arguable that that involves an exercise of discretion which doesn’t adequately take into account the unfairness to the wife.”
Mr Mullins was neither present, nor represented, during the Appeal Court hearing. No date was set for the full hearing of his ex-wife’s appeal.
SOURCE: The Telegraph