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Splitting Assets

Splitting Assets In Divorce - Is It Always 50/50?19th Jun 2017

Splitting Assets

Getting divorced and reaching a financial settlement are two different things.

Don’t assume you will automatically receive half of everything. It may be common practice but it’s by no means guaranteed.

Especially where the marriage is a short one – and particularly after a new ruling by the Court of Appeal in the case of Julie and Robin Sharp.

For the first time, the Court of Appeal has made a distinction between ‘long’ and ‘short’ marriages. And it’s an important one…

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Julie v Robin Sharp

Julie Sharp filed for divorce from husband Robin six years after they married. An initial ruling  granted him half their £5.5 million assets.

At the time this Gloucestershire couple married, both had been earning the same amount. But then she received a series of substantial bonuses. So she argued that she had earned most of the £5.5 million.

In the Court of Appeal Lord Justice Macfarlane said Mr Sharp:

  • made no contribution to the source of Mrs Sharp’s bonuses
  • did not contribute more to the home life or welfare of the family.

What This Appeal Decision Means For You

The case of the Sharps could well go to the Supreme Court – and meanwhile Baroness Deech is planning to change divorce law.

Baroness Deech has tabled a private members' bill based on 50/50 division of assets acquired during the marriage. This would limit maintenance payments and make prenuptial agreements legally binding.

Prenuptial agreements are not legally enforceable at present but it’s well worth having one because family courts can be guided by them when considering division of assets. Find out more about them here.

So What Should You Do?

Here are the takeaways if you’re getting divorced or dissolving a civil partnership:

  • The latest Court of Appeal decision sets an important precedent. Short marriages are likely to be treated differently in future.
  • Do not assume you’ll automatically receive 50 per cent of everything – you may not if you haven’t contributed equally to the marriage.
  • Do not assume that you’ll receive maintenance payments for many years to come. Payments may be limited to shorter time periods in future – reflecting changing roles in the workplace over recent decades.
  • Get expert legal advice – divorce law is changing (as the case of the Sharps illustrates).

Contact Coles Miller Partner Richard Perrins, Head of our Family Law Department, for more information, 01202 355698.

This document is not intended to constitute and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice on any specific matter. No liability for the accuracy of the content of this document, or the consequences of relying on it, is assumed by the author. If you seek further information, please contact Managing Partner Neil Andrews at Coles Miller Solicitors LLP.