What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine

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What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine

For many years, it has been accepted under English law that the starting point when dividing matrimonial assets upon divorce is equality. The notion behind this sharing principle is that, whether you are the breadwinner or the homemaker, your contribution to the marriage is equal.

However, many spouses feel this is unjust and attempt to persuade the court that it is inequitable to divide the assets equally. An argument commonly relied upon by the breadwinner is that of ‘special contribution’. In these cases, the main/sole breadwinner relies on the fact that they were responsible for the luxurious lifestyle the family had been accustomed to, which was achieved as a result of the level of genius they had displayed in their profession; something their spouse could not take any credit for. This argument is more common in big money cases but has often been a difficult one to prove; to date there are only a handful of cases in which the Court has ruled in favour of anyone relying on this argument.

Following a recent decision made in the Court of Appeal it would appear that it may now be even harder to convince the court that the sharing principle should be departed from because of a ‘special contribution’. In the case of Work and Gray, the husband was ordered to pay half of the matrimonial assets, worth approximately £140million, to his wife. The husband did not agree with the judgement and took the case to the Court of Appeal arguing that he should receive credit for his ‘special contribution’. However, the Court of Appeal did not accept his claim and found that the wife’s contribution as homemaker was just as important. As such, the original order to pay the wife half the family wealth was upheld.

For those who feel they want to depart from the sharing principle should their marriage end in divorce, this case further adds merit to the option of entering into a nuptial agreement. This would allow both parties to agree how they wish their assets to be divided in the event of divorce.

Mark Rennie, Partner, asb lawFor further guidance, please contact Mark Rennie, Partner, Family.

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Published: 27 Jun 2017

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