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Posted 16 June 2017

Short Marriages and Financial Claims

The Court of Appeal have today set aside an order made providing for an equal division of the assets in a divorce where the parties had been married for only 3 ½ years to the date of the divorce petition, having lived together for only two years prior.

At the time of the financial proceedings, the total assets amounted to £6.9m. The husband had conceded that one of the properties, valued at £1.1m should be kept out of the matrimonial asset pot as the wife had acquired the property before they married. A further £350,000 was subtracted to reflect other pre-acquired assets.

The judge at first instance found that there had been no sufficient reason identified for a departure from the starting point of equality and divided the assets of £6.9m as to £2.725m to the husband. The wife appealed.

The main issue was whether it was the case that the matrimonial assets should be shared between them equally where the marriage was short, there were no children and the parties had maintained separate finances.

On hearing the appeal, the Court of Appeal held that the wife was right to contend a departure from the equal sharing principle to achieve fairness.

The judge at first instance’s order was set aside and replaced by a Property Adjustment Order allocating the £1.1m property with an additional lump sum of £900,000. The husband therefore retained £2m of a £6.9m asset pot, just under 29% of the assets.

There is no legal distinction between a “short” and “long” marriages, and therefore no defined point after which wealth should be shared. It is still not clear how long a marriage has to be in order to be defined as “short” however, the fact these particular parties did not have any children and their finances had previously been arranged separately are evidently important factors which the Court of Appeal could not disregard.

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