Divorce is a difficult time for most couples – emotions are usually running high, there is inevitably some degree of acrimony, and matters such as child arrangements and the division of assets need to be taken care of. If a couple cannot reach agreement on these matters, it will be for the courts to determine what each party is entitled to. This week, there has been some coverage of an ongoing divorce battle between Julie Sharp, a high earning city trader, and her ex-husband Robin.
Mr and Mrs Sharp married in 2009 and divorced in 2013, after Mrs Sharp discovered that her husband had been “pursuing a new relationship”. The marriage was therefore relatively short, and the couple did not share any children. It seems that Mrs Sharp was the higher earner, amassing £10million in a period of 5 years. The couple's total assets amounted to around £6.9million - with virtually all the wealth stemming from the wife.
Despite the relatively short marriage, no children and most of the wealth stemming from Mrs Sharp, the judge approached the case on the basis of a 50/50 split, although he reduced Mr Sharp's payout to reflect 'unmingled' assets that his wife built up before the marriage. As a result, in November 2015 Mr Sharp was awarded a £2.7million pay out at the High Court. The judge found that the evidence did not support Mrs Sharp’s case that there was a deliberate and agreed intention to maintain separate finances. Mrs Sharp said the 50/50 split was “intrinsically unfair” as she believed that there was “never a joint approach to funds in this marriage” and little “intermingling” of the couple’s finances.
Mrs Sharp appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal, disputing the 50/50 split and seeking a reduction of Mr Sharp’s pay out by £1.5million. Mrs Sharp’s barrister argued on her behalf that 'the idea that equal sharing applied in this case made for an unprincipled decision’. It was further contended on behalf of Mrs Sharp. that throughout their time together the couple maintained largely separate finances, and earned and spent their own money. In response, Mr Sharp insisted that he made a major contribution by project managing and carrying out renovation works on the couple’s two properties - particularly after he took redundancy in 2012. His barrister argued that the ruling of a 50/50 split was in line with ‘the usual sharing approach to divorce’ and that there was no compelling reason to depart from that approach. Although Mr Sharp claims there was ample evidence of the couple’s intentions to pool their resources, nothing was ever fully executed.
Lords Justice McFarlane, McCombe and David Richards reserved their judgment on Mrs Sharp’s appeal.
If you are planning on getting married and wish to protect your finances and assets, or you are going through a divorce and require assistance and advice on your options, please contact Sheldon Henry, Partner and Head of Family Law, on 0207 226 0570 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Published 2 March 2017