There are no hard and fast rules over the division of assets in divorce cases. In particular, an equal partition of assets is not always appropriate, as was illustrated by the Court of Appeal’s upholding of a judge’s decision to award 70 per cent of a former couple’s capital assets to the wife owing to her lesser earning capacity and child-rearing role.
The husband argued that his ex-wife’s award had left him facing the prospect of having to work more than 40 hours a week in order to meet his commitments to her and to provide an adequate income for himself. He argued that this would have a serious impact on his level of contact with their three-year-old daughter.
He had been ordered to pay his ex-wife £1,070 in monthly maintenance and she had been awarded the lion’s share of the capital amassed during the couple’s 10-year marriage, including a portfolio of five residential properties that were heavily mortgaged. The husband argued that the award had left him with only £1,430 per month to live on and that this was insufficient to meet his income needs.
However, in dismissing the husband’s appeal and ruling that the unequal division of capital assets was justified in the circumstances, the Court noted that the husband had earned a salary of £75,000 a year before cutting down on his hours to spend more time with his daughter and that the flat where he lived was affordable and adequate for his needs.
The ex-wife, who has care of the couple’s daughter, earned much less, had debts and needed £250,000 to buy a suitable home of her own. Her modest income meant that she could only raise a £100,000 mortgage. The divorce judge had not ignored the husband’s needs and was entitled to find that he had a substantially higher earning capacity than his ex-wife and that the long hours he would have to work would not impede his contact with his daughter.