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Divorce Arrangements Overturned When Judge in Error

12 February 2010

When dividing family assets on separation or divorce, judges sometimes make some surprising decisions. Where these are erroneous or unfair, they can be overturned.

In a recent case, a judge ruled that in order to achieve a ‘clean break’ between a childless couple in their 40s, 65 per cent of the family assets should be awarded to the wife and 35 per cent to the husband.

The wife had claimed that her husband ‘wasted’ £2 million of the family’s wealth in the period during which the financial arrangements were the subject of argument and the judge in the lower court took account of this when making her decision. She also included in the assets available for distribution a deferred asset in the form of a compensation payment that was receivable by the husband some time in the future. He appealed against the decision.

On appeal, the calculations were reworked by the appeal judge and a new clean break arrangement made. The original decision had wrongly treated the deferred asset as a liquid (readily available) asset and the allegation of the ‘wasted’ £2 million could not be substantiated.

Allegations which do not stand up to close scrutiny are often made in court and it is by no means uncommon for decisions based on evidence that lacks a strong foundation to be overturned on appeal.