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“It’s half each, isn’t it?”

Published by Mark Tattersall in Finance · 19/9/2017 14:58:36

The starting-point on marriage breakdown is that assets are divided equally. That is often not the finishing point, however; the law says that there should be equality “unless there are good reasons to depart from equality” and there are often good reasons to depart (most commonly revolving around housing needs). In those cases where the value of the assets is high, so that there is enough to go round to satisfy both spouses’ needs, it has often been thought that “It’s half each, isn’t it?” (at least, If the marriage has not been short). The recently-decided case of Hart, however, makes clear that this is not the case. The assets were worth £9.4 million and the marriage lasted for some 19 years. The wife received £3.47 million (about 37%). The Court of Appeal decided that the judge who had made the order was right to take into account the fact that some of the assets had been acquired by the husband before the marriage. Many lawyers have been surprised that, after a marriage of some 19 years, the Court of Appeal has given weight to “pre-acquired assets”. In the vast majority of cases (where the value of the assets is much lower), arguments based on “need” will continue to “trump” arguments based on assets having been acquired before the marriage, particularly if there are children and/or the marriage has not been short.  Mark Tattersall, partner at Chivers Walsh Family Law




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