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“Short marriage” ruling departs from equal sharing principle

“Short marriage” ruling departs from equal sharing principle

In the recent case of Julie Therese Sharp v Robin Duncan Sharp, the Court of Appeal has ruled that a combination of potentially relevant factors – a short marriage, no children, dual incomes and separate finances – was sufficient to justify departing from an equal sharing principle to achieve overall fairness between the two parties.

The wife described how their “brief and childless” 4-year marriage was brought to an end after she found out that her husband was seeing someone else.

At the start of the relationship, both parties had similar earnings of about £100,000 per annum. However, over the course of the relationship, the wife’s earnings began to soar and she accumulated a £7 million fortune.

At the first Court hearing, the husband was awarded a total of £2.7 million but this decision was contested by the wife. During their marriage, the husband took redundancy and claimed that this was agreed by both parties in order for him to oversee renovations conducted on their manor house. The husband argued that both parties intended to “pool their resources” and that he should be entitled to half of the assets of the family (the £2.7m).

The wife argued that the pay-out should be cut to just under £1.2 million and claimed that the usual 50-50 split was “intrinsically unfair”. Evidence presented by the wife’s barrister showed that the parties had made a point of keeping their finances separate. As such, there was “never a joint approach to funds” during the marriage. The couple even took turns picking up the bill when dining out.

The Court reached a decision and awarded the husband a reduced sum of £2 million. The judge clarified that the factors that are to be looked at in cases such as these are whether or not there are any elements in the case that “may lie outside the equal sharing principle”.

The decision in this case can be used to demonstrate a reason to depart from the traditional 50-50 split in short marriage cases.

This case serves to remind anyone with impending nuptials to ensure that they consider obtaining legal advice prior to their marriage particularly where there are existing assets to protect.

If you would like help and advice on any aspect of Family Law please contact Christine McLay on 01325 466461. Email christine.mclay@close-thornton.co.uk

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