The length of a marriage and the pre-existing financial positions of the husband and wife are both relevant factors when it comes to dividing up assets on divorce. Each case is decided on its own facts, however, and in one case, a wife was awarded £4.5 million at the end of a marriage that lasted less than two years.
The husband, in his 60s, was worth £37 million, almost all of which pre-dated his marriage to a woman almost 30 years his junior. During their brief union they enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle, but the marriage and its breakdown were so tempestuous that the wife had suffered serious psychological harm.
Given the brevity of the marriage and the extent of the husband’s pre-existing wealth, a family judge acknowledged that it was not a case for equal sharing of assets. However, he found that the wife's needs included a £2.3 million flat in Central London. The husband was, amongst other things, also required to pay off her £300,000 debts and to provide her with a £1.3 million lump sum as a source of income.
In rejecting the husband’s appeal against that ruling, the High Court noted that, although the wife made no criticisms of his behaviour, she had left the marriage in a condition of great damage and vulnerability. Although her award might be viewed as generous, the judge’s assessment of her capital and income needs fell well within the discretion vested in him by Parliament.