Josiah-Lake Gardiner’s client, Julie Sharp, succeeds in her appeal

The Royal Courts of Justice in London

The eagerly awaited Judgment in our Court of Appeal case of Sharp v Sharp was handed down this morning (13 June 2017). We are pleased to report that our client, Julie Sharp, was successful in her appeal of the lower court’s order.

Their Lordships unanimously agreed that a blanket approach to the equal sharing principle of 50/50 division of all assets acquired during a marriage ‘can only be an impermissible judicial gloss on the statute, which expressly requires the court to consider all the circumstances of the case.’ [86]

The Court stated that ‘if…the equal sharing principle of 50/50 allocation is now applied by courts and practitioners, in cases which are not pre-determined by ‘needs’, to all relevant assets in every marriage, without exception, from the moment the couple leave the church or the Register Office, this would seem to be a very significant and wholly unjustified development…’ [86].

Our case on appeal was that the duration of a marriage is still, by statute (and as such expressly identified by Parliament), a factor the courts should specifically consider when making a final order. As a consequence therefore fairness is likely to dictate a different approach to that of equal sharing of all matrimonial assets depending on the length of the marriage.

This was not only a short and childless marriage but both parties had their own careers and maintained separate finances throughout the marriage. It was argued that these individual factors could justify an argument for a departure from equality but when combined as in this case, created a ‘perfect storm’ which certainly justified a departure from equal-sharing. It was therefore wrong for the High Court, at first instance, to award Mr. Sharp capital totalling £2.725 million which represented exactly 50% of the total matrimonial assets of £5.45 million (after deductions and concessions).

The Court of Appeal has reduced the husband’s award from £2.725 million to £2 million, their Lordships considering that the husband should receive 50% of the value of the parties’ 2 properties (circa £1.3m) and an additional award to reflect the combination of 3 factors:

(a) standard of living enjoyed during marriage;

(b) the need for a modest capital fund in order to live in the property that he is to retain; and

(c) some share in the assets held unilaterally by the wife.

Their Lordships assessed this additional award at £700,000.  In the facts of this case, that amounted to a share of less than 16% of the unilateral assets held in our client’s sole name.

Many of our fellow professionals say this approach is a retrograde step; that it is established and settled law that all property acquired by either party during the marriage, other than by external donation stands to be divided equally no matter how short the marriage, the fact that there are no children, that finances were kept entirely separate and that each party has their own career.

We, at Josiah Lake Gardiner, have never followed suit in advising our clients that such a blanket approach was the right one and are pleased that the Court of Appeal has confirmed that if the contrary has been the approach of many Family Law professionals and the courts it is the wrong approach.

What the papers say:

” UK court cuts breadwinner trader’s divorce payments to husband “Financial Times – https://www.ft.com/content/a042a946-5035-11e7-a1f2-db19572361bb

” Couples divorcing after a short marriage ‘may no longer have their assets split equally’ ” – The Telegraph – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/13/couples-divorcing-short-marriage-may-no-longer-have-assets-split/

” Court of Appeal determines that application of ‘sharing principle’ is unfair in short marriage “Family Law Week – http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed178195

” Cheating husband whose City trader wife made an ‘eye-watering’ £10.5m in bonuses in five years has his divorce payout slashed by £725,000 after he admits affair “ Daily Mail – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4599672/Cheating-husband-divorce-payout-slashed-725-000.html