When divorcing couples have contributed equally to their marital fortune, the general rule is that assets will be split 50/50. However, as one ‘big money’ case showed, it is not always as simple as that and complications can arise in respect of wealth that has been generated post-separation.
Prior to a professional couple’s marriage, the wife had been the bigger earner and enjoyed an income in excess of £1 million a year. However, following the birth of the first of their two children, she had given up work and the husband’s career as an investment banker had taken off.
His annual earned income routinely ran into seven figures and the couple, both aged in their 40s, enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle in a matrimonial home valued at £5.1 million. The total pot to be divided between them upon their divorce, following an eight-year marriage, came to more than £26 million.
The husband acknowledged that the wife should keep the house, which was in her name, and that she had made an equal contribution to the establishment of the family fortune. However, he argued that the pot should be divided 60/40 in his favour on the basis that he had earned £6.5 million of the total since their separation.
The court accepted that that sum should not be viewed as part of the matrimonial property to be divided. The solution proposed by the husband would leave the wife with assets of £10.2 million, including the house. That represented just under 40 per cent of the global pot and just under 52 per cent of the sum available once the husband’s post-separation earnings had been deducted.
The husband would be required to pay £25,000 in annual maintenance for each of the children and to pay their private school fees. The cost of a nanny would, however, be shared between the couple. The court was satisfied that the award to the wife would be sufficient to meet all her housing and income needs and that the overall outcome was entirely appropriate and fair to both sides.