The recent case of Sharp v Sharp paves the way for a move away from an equal division of marital assets following divorce in circumstances where there is a short, childless marriage.
For many married couples it is a difficult decision to end their marriage. One of the greatest concerns is the division of the family assets built up during the marriage. The starting point of the Courts is that all assets are divided equally between the parties. However, the recent case of Sharp v Sharp paves the way for Courts to depart from an equal division of assets in some cases.
In Sharp the parties were married for a period of 4 years and in a relationship for a total of 6 years. They had no children and both continued to work throughout the marriage. The parties each earned approximately £100,000 per year but Mrs Sharp earned bonuses which amounted to in excess of £10 million during the relationship whilst Mr Sharp received modest bonuses in comparison.
In deciding how the assets of the marriage were to be divided the Court was required to consider, amongst other things: –
- the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each party has or is likely to have in the future;
- the contributions which each party has made to the welfare of the family including any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family; and
- the duration of the marriage.
The Court decided that this case was one of the rare cases which favoured a departure from the usual equal division of assets and limited Mr Sharp’s financial award to £2 million out of total assets of £5.45 million. In making its decision the Court noted that this marriage was a short, childless marriage.
Most importantly the Court ruled that this was a case in which the parties had kept their finances separate, even during their marriage. Mr Sharp was unaware of the value of Mrs Sharp’s bonuses and many of the family household bills, including restaurant bills, were split equally throughout the marriage.
In reaching its decision the Court decided that Mrs Sharp had received bonuses “way beyond the level of her previous earnings purely as a result of her employment and… without any contribution, either domestic or business, from her husband”.
The case raises questions about what length of marriage will be defined as a short marriage and where the distinction will be drawn between a short and a long marriage. However, it does offer hope to some individuals faced with the prospect of providing their spouse with half of their assets where they are able to show that the marriage was short and childless and finances remained separate.
If you require advice or assistance in relation to divorce and financial matters or other family law matters at Jordans Solicitors we have a dedicated family law team who can help. Please dial 01924 387 110 and ask to speak with a member of the family law team or visit our website and request a callback.