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Short marriages – Does equality apply?

In the recent case of Sharp v Sharp the Court of Appeal considered whether there should be a departure from the principles of equality and sharing in a short, childless marriage.

Mr and Mrs Sharp were married for 6 years. During the marriage they earned similar amounts but Mrs Sharp received bonuses of around £10.5 million. They kept their finances fairly separate, with Mrs Sharp paying for holidays and gifting Mr Sharp 3 expensive cars.

The case was heard at first instance by Sir Peter Singer. He concluded that the matrimonial assets were worth £5.45 million, after discounting a property purchased solely using Mrs Sharp’s funds and some agreed pre-marital assets. He awarded Mr Sharp 50% of this sum, having concluded there was no reason for a departure from equality. He particularly noted that the fact that this was a husband claiming against a wealthy wife, rather than the other way around, made no difference to the applicable law.

Mrs Sharp appealed. The Court of Appeal concluded that in certain circumstances, such as in this case, a short marriage, with no children, where both parties worked and maintained a degree of financial separation, there could be a departure from equality and reduced Mr Sharp’s award to £2 million.

Whilst the majority of cases will be decided with reference to the needs of the parties, in short marriages, where there is sufficient wealth to meet needs, this case demonstrates that the Court may consider a departure from the principle of sharing in order to achieve a fair outcome.

If you have any concerns relating to this or any other financial issue arising out of marriage breakdown, please do not hesitate to contact us. Please call 01444 472700 to make a fixed fee initial appointment or use the quick contact form and we will contact you at a convenient time.

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