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The Eric Whitehead Partnership

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Family Law Update

  • In a recent divorce and finances (known as “Ancillary Relief”) case, the Court of Appeal held that a pre-nuptial agreement (ie an agreement relating to finances and property signed by the parties before they marry) should be given decisive weight. The husband’s financial award was reduced, bringing it more in line with a pre-nuptial agreement signed by the parties. It is likely in due course that such agreements will become legally valid in the UK.
  • The Courts will show little sympathy to applicants who wish to vary Ancillary Relief orders on the basis of falling property and share valuations as a result of the credit crunch. In a well publicised case, a Mr Myerson (a successful fund manager and investor) appealed against an Order in which he retained 57% of his assets and in which his wife would receive 43%. Following the credit crunch a year later, Mr Myerson’s share equated to only 14% of his assets while his wife’s share had increased to a whopping 86%! Mr Myerson appealed against the initial Order, arguing that the drop in share prices and property values had rendered the Order unfair and unworkable. The Court of Appeal disagreed, much to Mr Myerson’s undoubted despair.
  • The circumstances in which the parties’ conduct in Ancillary Relief proceedings will impact upon financial provision are rare. However, a husband’s conduct in a recent case was so bad that it virtually extinguished his claim for financial provision from his wife. The parties’ marriage broke down and they separated in 1990. Significant assets were involved. In 2007, it was discovered that the husband had been sexually abusing his grandchildren and had been involved in other paedophilic activities around the world. He was duly convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. His wife instigated Ancillary Relief proceedings and argued that he should receive no financial provision whatsoever in light of a number of factors, including his conduct. The Court agreed and held that as the husband’s conduct had amounted to the grossest breach of trust possible then he was not entitled to any financial provision.

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