In a tale of dramatically changing fortunes, a piano teacher whose ex-husband has prospered mightily since their divorce almost 20 years ago – whilst she has fallen on hard times – has failed to convince the Court of Appeal that she is entitled to a slice of his £3 million fortune.
The ex-husband had established himself as a high-flying insurance company director since his divorce in 1995 and the woman had contrasted his affluent lifestyle and £290,000-a-year earnings with her meagre income from teaching eight music students.
Although she conceded that most of her ex-husband’s wealth had been earned in the decades following their split, the mother-of-two argued that she had had been instrumental as a home-maker and in building the foundations of his career during their marriage.
After six years together, the former couple had signed a separation agreement on going their different ways whereby he gave up his share in their family home in London and a flat in France. She gave him a £175,000 lump sum, while he paid £2,000 a year in maintenance and half of their daughter’s private school fees.
That agreement was, however, not enshrined in a court order until 2013 when – despite the vast gulf that had developed between the ex-couple’s fortunes – a family judge accepted the ex-husband’s argument that it would be wrong to re-open the financial aspects of the divorce so long after the event.
Challenging that ruling, the ex-wife argued that she was struggling financially and that her needs had not been considered. She told the Court, “He was getting richer and richer and richer and more successful, and I was getting poorer as every year went by.” She submitted that the judge had overlooked her contribution to her ex-husband’s success and that the undermining of her capital base and plans for her own future had been in part due to her maternal commitments.
Refusing permission to appeal, however, the Court noted that the ex-couple had for many years acted upon, relied upon and gained peace of mind from the separation agreement which each of them had viewed as a final resolution. Although the Court appreciated that its decision would come as a ‘significant blow’ to the ex-wife, there was no realistic possibility of her appeal succeeding.