When people marry late in life they often bring substantial wealth to the marriage and the manner in which such assets should be divided on divorce is often a burning question. The High Court tackled that issue head on in awarding a wife £2.3 million of a total family pot valued at over £10.3 million.
The husband, aged 83, had been widowed for almost 10 years before he married his second wife, who was 17 years his junior. Having had a successful business career, he argued that most of the family wealth had been generated by him and his first wife prior to the marriage. He submitted that the wife’s financial entitlements should be assessed on the basis of her reasonable needs.
For her part, however, the wife argued that the sharing principle should apply and that she should receive half of the total pot. During the marriage, she had thrown herself into helping the husband with his business, which she had been instrumental in turning round from the brink of insolvency.
The Court found that, before the marriage, the husband had built up a substantial bedrock of wealth. He had also not made any specific promise to the wife that she would be entitled to half of everything. However, his business had been losing money heavily before the wife became involved and he had failed properly to acknowledge the value of her contribution.
Factoring in the value of assets that the husband had brought into the marriage, the Court ruled that the wife’s entitlement should be assessed on the basis of need. A global award of £2.3 million to the wife – leaving over 75 per cent of the total pot with the husband – was an entirely fair outcome. The award to the wife was substantially more generous than offers made by the husband during pre-trial negotiations.