If one party to a long marriage has built up a successful business or earned a high salary, during the course of that marriage, and the other party has stayed at home to raise children and/or to manage a home, the Courts are likely to find that, although the second party has not been a breadwinner, he or she has provided “money’s worth” to the marriage.
The second party should, therefore, be awarded a sum of money on divorce by way of ancillary relief but how is this to be calculated?
The Court will usually only need to be involved if the parties cannot agree figures between themselves and will investigate thoroughly the finances of the parties using, where thought necessary, the services of independent experts (such as forensic accountants) to evaluate any business assets, bank accounts and investments, whether in this country or elsewhere.
In a recent and much publicised case, a wealthy husband could not accept the Court of Appeal’s ruling and is currently attempting to appeal further, this time to the House of Lords. He was, perhaps understandably, unhappy that his wife was awarded forty-eight million pounds by way of ancillary relief (the divisible assets in the case amounted to one hundred and thirty-one million pounds).
Sir Mark Potter, in his Court of Appeal judgment, said that, “[the husband’s] indignation has an intensity which has rendered this litigation hard-fought at every turn and which, we fear, will continue to do so until whatever is properly payable to the wife under English law has been paid in full”.
The wife, on the other hand commented, in an interview with a Times journalist on 25th May 2007, “I don’t regard myself as a greedy person and from the very beginning I always said I don’t want to take him for every penny – just what is fair. I never wanted to achieve a result perceived to be greedy or avaricious”.
Whether the joint assets of a long marriage are one hundred thousand or one hundred million pounds, the Court will look to what division of the spoils is fair in the circumstances. Both parties are expected to be honest and truthful in assisting the Court to reach a correct decision and may rightly be penalised if they are not so.