The best way to keep down the emotional and financial cost of divorce is to maintain a sense of compromise. In a big money case in which that signally failed to happen, a wife was hit hard in the pocket for making unrealistic financial demands.
The former couple, aged in their 50s, had two daughters and enjoyed an affluent lifestyle during a relationship that lasted around 12 years. The husband, who came from a wealthy family, was the source of all the money used to fund that lifestyle. The wife conceded at a late stage in the proceedings that the sharing principle should not be applied to the case and that her financial entitlements should be calculated on the basis of her needs.
The proceedings were complicated by a dispute as to the extent to which the wife’s needs had been increased by brain damage that she had suffered in a serious riding accident. She had, amongst other things, accused the husband of wasting millions of pounds on an extravagant property project. He, in turn, had instructed inquiry agents to carry out surveillance on the wife in an attempt to show that she had found a new partner who was providing her with financial support.
Of marital assets worth about £12.25 million, the wife claimed £7,715,000, or about 64 per cent of the total. The husband offered her £2,369,126 on a clean break basis. Ruling on the matter, the judge described the wife’s claim as completely unrealistic and totally outside the range of possible outcomes. She had, amongst other things, claimed about £1.1 million in respect of holidays and weekend breaks.
Finding that the husband’s offer was too low, however, the judge ordered him to pay £3.65 million to meet the wife’s needs for housing and capitalised maintenance. He was also ordered to contribute £400,000 towards her legal costs, bringing the total payable to £4.05 million.
The wife had borrowed heavily to fund the proceedings and her legal costs came to about £900,000. In refusing to order the husband to pay the whole of that sum, the judge found that she had presented an unreasonable case. It was fair that she should have to pay £500,000 of those costs herself. The remaining money would be sufficient to provide her with an income of £75,000 a year, which the judge described as a small fortune for most people.