28 July 2017, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors
The recent case of Sharp v Sharp has shed some light on the division of assets, following a short marriage were there were no children. Mr and Mrs Sharp married in 2009 after co-habiting for 18 months. Divorce proceedings were commenced at the end of 2016.
Both parties initially had similar earnings of approximately £100,000 per annum, but during the marriage Mrs Sharp received discretionary bonuses totalling 10.5 million.
The total assets for distribution on divorce were 6.9 million. The judge at first instance did not find that there was a reason to depart from an equal division of the assets, nor did he allow a discount simply because it was a husband making a claim against a wife.
Mrs Sharp appealed and the Court of Appeal were prepared to depart from the yardstick of equality and Mr Sharp did not receive 50% of the marital assets.
The court found;
- This was a short marriage, even though the parties had been together including the period of cohabitation for seven and a half years.
- There were no children.
- Mrs Sharp’s bonuses were way beyond the level of her previous earnings and were as a result of her employment without any contribution from her husband.
- Mr and Mrs Sharp had managed their finances separately.
- Mr Sharp had not contributed more to the home life ( the courts do not distinguish between the breadwinner and the homemaker).
The Court of Appeal did state, that a departure from equality would only be justified in a small number of cases.
However the message is clear that couples who divorce after a short marriage can no longer expect to have martial assets divided equally, especially where there are no children and finances have been kept separate.
If the facts had been reversed and Mr Sharp had received the bonuses, would the court have reached a different conclusion about the division of the assets?
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