UPDATE 13 June 2017 – Julie Sharp Wins Court of Appeal Case
The High Court awarded Julie’s former husband a property worth circa £1.1million and a lump sum of circa £1.6million. In addition, the husband was awarded a further lump sum of £60,000 to offset his claim for a share of Julie’s pension. The husband’s total award was circa £2.7million – a sum which represented a 50% share of the non-pension assets built up by Julie.
The High Court’s approach was to subject the totality of the assets and savings built up during the marriage to equal division, irrespective of the length of the marriage and with little or no regard to the very different proportions in which the parties financially contributed to those assets.
The central issue of our appeal is what the correct approach should be in redistributing the financial resources upon divorce where the marriage is short, childless and where both parties were financially self-sufficient each enjoying significant earning capacities. One other pertinent feature of this marriage is that the parties had chosen to keep their finances completely separate throughout their marriage.
Our position is that the doctrine of separate property still applies in English law and in other words, the mere fact of a marriage does not alter property rights. Further we believe courts should be cautious in their approach to short-marriages and respect the principles by which the parties in the marriage have chosen to live their married lives (i.e. keeping their finances separate) irrespective of whether or not there is a pre/post-nuptial agreement (once needs have been met).
The duration of a marriage is still, by statute, a factor the courts should consider when making a final order as per s.25(d) Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. We assert therefore that in a case where, like Julie’s, there are dual-careers; a separation of finances; no children and importantly the marriage is short in duration, the court should go no further than meeting the other party’s needs and addressing any compensation element. We say subjecting Julie’s case (and any other case for that matter with the same facts as Julie’s) to equal sharing (or in essence community of property), is wrong in law and unprincipled.
Lord Justice McFarlane; Lord Justice McCombe and Lord Justice David Richards have reserved their Judgment.