Son of ‘most married peer’ case raises important questions on trusts and pensions

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It may have attracted media headlines because of its connection with a ‘hell-raising’ earl who was notorious for being Britain’s “most-married peer”, but the divorce of The Honourable Henry Wyndham Wodehouse raises some important questions regarding trusts and pensions.

Henry Wodehouse is the son of Lord Wodehouse, the fourth earl of Kimberley, who was married six times and who was said to have “frittered away millions through high living and trips to the divorce courts”, as a result of which he had to sell the family seat, Kimberley Hall in Norfolk, prior to his death in 2002. Henry, however, has lived rather more modestly, sharing a semi-detached house with his wife, and having worked as a Metropolitan Police officer.

In the course of his divorce proceedings Mr Wodehouse was ordered to pay a lump sum of £90,000 to his wife, who was also awarded a half share of his police pension. The order stipulated that if he failed to pay the lump sum the money should come out of a £600,000 trust fund his father left for the family.

Mr Wodehouse sought permission to appeal against the order. He claims that the lump sum is more than the entire liquid assets that he and his wife had when they separated, and that the court did not have the power to make an order against the trust. In any event, he says that the trust is wholly discretionary, so he has no entitlement to any capital from it. As to the pension sharing order, he claims that his wife is not entitled to a half share, as it was built up before they even met.

The reports indicate that Lord Justice McFarlane has given permission for Mr Wodehouse to appeal to the Court of Appeal on the trust point, although it is not clear whether he has also been given permission to appeal on the pension point. It would be useful for the Court of Appeal to provide further clarity on both points.

Whatever, Family Law Cafe looks forward with interest to the hearing of the appeal, the date for which has not yet been fixed.

Image of Kimberley Hall by Gareth Hughes [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons