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Is Equal Sharing Standard?

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CliIn recent years, I have seen a growing number of solicitors refer to an automatic presumption that assets on divorce are shared equally. Are they correct?

Relevant Guidance

The decision in the case of Sharp v Sharp (2017) provides the answer. The case considered the situation where one party had brought significantly more wealth into a marriage and whether this would justify a departure from an equal sharing of the assets.

The couple started living together in 2007, married in June 2009 and began divorce proceedings in 2013. They were therefore together for some 6 years, which can be interpreted as a short to medium length relationship. They were both in their early 40’s. The total assets were £6.9 million with the wife having a large part of this (just over £4 million) in her bank accounts. They had always kept their finances separate, each paid half of the household bills and even divided up their restaurant bills for meals out.

The facts of the case were straightforward as it involved a short to medium length marriage, no children and the couple each had similar incomes. The wife however had brought substantially more wealth into the marriage.

Fairness

The Court of Appeal held that it was wrong to say that there was an ‘automatic’ application of an equal division of assets in every case. The Court’s conclusion was that fairness required a departure from 50/50 so that the husband received less than a half share.

No Automatic Presumption of 50/50

This case is important for two reasons. First, it confirms that there is no presumption that there should be a 50/50 sharing of assets in every case. The court will look at all the circumstances of the case and decide each on its own facts.

The important second aspect is where the court refers to “the exclusion of some property from the 50% calculation”. Until then, the court would look at the whole pool of assets and would not ‘ring-fence’ certain assets. However, the case of Sharp confirms that in some cases it might be appropriate to ring-fence some assets because every case depends on its own facts to achieve a fair outcome.

Each Case Decided on Own Facts

So, in answer to the question of whether an equal sharing is automatic, the answer is a resounding no. Each case will depend on its own facts and in most cases the financial and house needs will still be the most compelling factor.

Specialist Advice

The law in this area is very discretionary and there is no one right answer and the experience of a specialist family lawyer is therefore vital.  Vingoe Family Law has solicitors who specialise in the financial implications of divorce and are happy to advise on any questions.

 

Anthony Vingoe

Specialist Financial Remedy Solicitor

17th July 2023

 

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