Wife wins ‘short marriage’ appeal

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A wife who complained that an equal division of the matrimonial assets was not fair to her because of the short duration of the marriage and her greater contribution towards those assets has won her appeal against the decision.

Julie and Robin Sharp lived together for six years from 2007, and were married for the last four of those years. There were no children of the marriage. For most of their time together they both worked and earned similar salaries, but Mrs Sharp received bonuses totalling £10.5 million, whereas Mr Sharp’s bonuses were ‘comparatively trivial’.

After the marriage broke down divorce proceedings were commenced and Mrs Sharp made a financial remedies application. The application was heard by Sir Peter Singer in the High Court. At that time the total assets held by either party amounted to £6.9 million, although Mr Sharp accepted that a property acquired by Mrs Sharp before the marriage should be left out of the pot of “matrimonial assets” that should be divided between the parties. The total value of the matrimonial assets was £5.45 million. Sir Peter Singer decided that that sum should be divided equally, and therefore awarded Mr Sharp £2.725 million.

Mrs Sharp appealed, claiming that an equal division of the matrimonial assets was not appropriate, in the light of the short duration of the marriage and the fact that the parties had largely kept their finances separate. Giving the leading judgment of the Court of Appeal Lord Justice McFarlane said that these factors, together with the fact that it was a childless marriage and both parties had their own income, justified a departure from the principle that matrimonial assets should normally be shared between the parties equally. Accordingly, the appeal was allowed and the award to Mr Sharp was reduced to £2 million.

You can read the full judgment of the Court of Appeal here.

Image: The Royal Courts of Justice, by Francisco Rojas, licensed under CC BY 2.0.