UK – Husband keeps family wealth in divorce ruling

A wife is not entitled to a £7 million share of her husband’s £24 million fortune after 25 years of marriage because he inherited it from his father, a divorce judge has ruled.

exterior of the High Court

The High Court in London. Photo: JOHN TAYLOR

Mr Justice Moylan ruled that the wealth of the couple, who cannot be named, was “not the product of their endeavours”, so the “sharing principle” of divorce settlements should be ignored.

He said the woman, who is in her fifties, was entitled to £4.3 million, which he said was “generous” enough to meet her financial needs, enabling her to buy a £1.1 million house and giving her an income of £115,000 a year plus additional “discretionary” spending.

The couple’s total wealth was between £21 million and £24 million. The husband, in his sixties, was given several farms and thousands of acres of land by his father, as well as shares in a family company, a substantial investment portfolio and a shooting estate.

The source of the wealth was a manufacturing firm the father set up after the Second World War, which was floated in the 1950s and sold in the 1980s, the Family Division of the High Court heard.

During their marriage, the couple lived in an “extremely rare and valuable” home in a rural estate with a swimming pool, tennis court and ornamental lake, and surrounded by parkland.

The husband earns about £100,000 a year from farming, but his shares portfolio generates £300,000 a year. Mr Justice Moylan said the couple, who split in 2009, had “enjoyed a very good standard of living” which the wife described as “extremely high, with no money worries and no restraints on our spending”.

Her lawyers were seeking a lump sum of £6 million, on top of the £1 million of assets already in her name. They said she needed £1.5 million to buy and furnish an “appropriate” home, as well as an income of more than £130,000 a year.

However, her husband’s lawyers said that £850,000 would be enough to buy a house, and that she should only get a lump sum of £1.4 million, on top of the £1 million and a small investment property he gave her in the 1990s. They said that applying the “sharing principle” to give the wife a stake in her husband’s inherited wealth would be an “invasion” of a fortune he owed to his father.

Mr Justice Moylan said the husband’s wealth was “non-matrimonial” and it was “fair” to base the wife’s award on a “generous assessment” of her needs. She was awarded a lump sum of £3.3 million, on top of her £1 million assets.

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