Equal Division Is the Norm in Divorce – But There Are Exceptions

Equal division of assets is the norm in modern divorce cases – but judges do not take a formulaic approach and there are exceptions to the rule. In one case, a wife was awarded just 37 per cent of a £9.4 million pot on the basis that her husband was already a millionaire when they married.

The husband, who was more than 20 years older than the wife, had prospered in business and was found by a judge to have been worth £2.6 million by the time of the marriage. On that basis, the judge found that it would be unjust to apply the equal sharing principle and awarded the wife assets valued at £3.5 million.

In challenging the decision before the Court of Appeal, the wife’s lawyers pointed out that the husband had been guilty of litigation misconduct in failing to fully reveal the extent of his assets. The marriage had been a partnership of equals and, by focusing on the wife’s reasonable needs rather than her contribution to the establishment of the marital fortune, the judge had reached an unfair and discriminatory result.

In dismissing her appeal, however, the Court noted that the husband was a man of substance before the marriage, whereas the wife’s sole asset was a sports car. Despite the deficiencies in the husband’s evidence, the judge had not fallen into error and was entitled to conclude that an equal division would be unfair to the husband and that an unequal division would be fair to the wife.