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A case reported in The Daily Mail on Friday (9 November 2012) reveals Mrs Justice Baron’s reasoning behind a £8.7 million payout by a husband (estimated to be worth more than £35 million), to his former wife.

The parties (identified only as Mr and Mrs Y) were married for 26 years but the Relationship Breakdown occured after the husband became ‘very enamoured’ of a ‘young artist/singer’.

The customary financial remedy proceedings were issued and the wife sought £11.2 million. The husband offered £7 million. The Judge (in her Judgment released yesterday) awarded £8.7 million to the wife.

After incurring £1.1 million in legal costs (collectively), the husband contended payment of this sum would be ‘gut-wrenching’. However, the Judge dismissed this, holding he was a ‘member of an illustrious family with many successful forbears who managed to accumulate great wealth. In fact, his ancestors, who include prominent military commanders, made a large contribution to the life of the nation in the 19th century.’

Baron J was satisfied the wife had not been ‘disingenuous or tactical’ in seeking to re-start her new life in London; nor were her general expectations ‘outlandish’.

I suspect that many (and particularly the men) who read this Judgment will form the view that this result is highly unfair and demonstrates the outlandish generosity visited by the English family legal system on wives who fund ‘lavish’ lifestyles, courtesy of their husbands’ wealth post-Divorce.

In reality, section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 clearly establishes the principles that must guide a court considering any financial remedy application, to include one involving the fabulously wealthy. Judges adopt a pragmatic approach when deciding how Financial Resources are to be shared. This case is no different. The husband in this case retained his Oxfordshire estate with 11 acres of gardens and 1,500 acres of farmland, left to him by his grandparents. His estate also includes 14 homes in the same village, two in a neighbouring village and one in a nearby town, a farm with 350 acres adjoining the main estate and a pub and equestrian centre in the village. I think he’ll manage to struggle by.

English Judges are increasingly inclined to give weight to Pre-Nuptial Agreements when deciding financial remedy cases. The outcome in Mr and Mrs Y’s case might have been dramatically different if there had been a properly prepared agreement in place. The corollary to the cries that English Judges are too generous to wives is the ability of spouses to regulate what happens on marriage breakdown through pre-nuptial agreements. This case is a salutary lesson about the wisdom of obtaining legal advice about one’s potential entitlements and obligations on marriage breakdown sooner rather than later!

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