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“Grossly unfair” financial settlement overturned in court ruling

A “grossly unfair” financial settlement following a divorce has been overturned by the Court of Appeal.

XW v XH concerned a family court ruling originally made in December 2017. On that occasion, a Judge awarded the wife just 29 per cent of the couple’s assets because he believed the husband, a successful businessman, had made a “special contribution’ to the couple’s wealth.

The ‘special’ or ‘stellar’ contribution proviso allows family court judges to grant more of a couple’s shared assets to one partner in a divorce if they are deemed to have made a particularly significant contribution to the couple’s wealth. In most cases, it is the husband in such a role: but stellar contribution rulings are rare. Since the much discussed, precedent-setting divorce White v White in 2000, homemaker and breadwinner roles within a marriage have been given equal status and a 50: 50 division of assets has been the assumed starting point for financial settlements.

When XW v XH reached the Court of Appeal Lord Justice Moylan highlighted the wife’s dedication to the couple’s disabled child, referred to in the judgement as “AB”.

He declared:

“In this case, the wife’s enormous contribution to the welfare and happiness of the family, as the homemaker and principal carer of AB, both during and after the marriage, has been and will be incalculable.”

He continued:

“She has devoted herself to the day-to-day care of a child with special needs and by doing so has freed the husband to a very considerable extent to enable him to pursue the business activities which have generated the enormous wealth now available.”

The Court of Appeal’s ruling was hailed by family law organisation Resolution. Chair Nigel Shepherd said Lord Justice Moylan’s decision would make it even harder for the wealthy party to successfully argue they made a special contribution during divorce proceedings.

“[The judgment] bolsters further the White and White recognition of different roles within a marriage being equally valuable.”

To discuss any aspect of this blog and the division of family assets upon divorce please contact our Partners via email at info@cflp.co.uk