High Court rules on financial settlement in fraud case

Children|Divorce|News|February 4th 2013

In a recently published case, High Court judge Mr Justice Ryder ruled that a wife was entitled to a share in a number of properties despite her former husband’s convictions for fraud.

W v W concerned a couple, both now in their early 50s, who had been married for 11 years and had two children. In 2010, the husband was convicted of fraud and imprisoned. Shortly before his conviction, the wife petitioned for divorce.

The authorities brought proceedings against the husband to confiscate the profits from his fraudulent activities –  a sum approaching £5 million. A confiscation order was made in January of last year.

Meanwhile, the wife pursued a financial settlement from the divorce. She claimed that she was entitled to a half share in both the former matrimonial home and a second property, as well as 50 per cent of the proceeds from the sale of a property in France on the basis hat it had been bought using the profits from an earlier property sale unconnected with the frauds.

She asked for the ownership of the couple’s former matrimonial home to be transferred to her alone, and also requested a lump sum payment which would allow her to pay off the mortgage. The husband agreed to these requests.

However, the Crown disputed her entitlement to these awards, particularly in relation to the sale of the French property. Using evidence sourced from a financial investigator, the Crown attempted to cast doubt on the wife’s entitlements, tracing the source of various payments and comparing the contributions of each party in the marriage. However Mr Justice Ryder ruled that this evidence did not suggest that the husband and wife’s shares should be any different to those they would normally be entitled do following a divorce and said there was no basis on which to deprive the wife of her 50 per cent share as he was not a named party in the confiscation order.

The crown also claimed that various payments made by the husband to the wife were gifts, and therefore subject to confiscation. But the judge said the wife was entitled as a mother to ordinary payments such as those for the mortgage and so these were not be considered gifts. However , some payments for refurbishment for the French property had been sourced from the fraudulent profits, so the wife was only entitled to 50 per cent of this balance remaining from the sale after this ‘tainted’ money had been accounted for. This amounted to just over £45,000.

The wife was still living in the former matrimonial home, with some financial assistance from her brother and friends. Mr Justice Ryder concluded that she needed to remain there and that there were sufficient assets not associated her husband’s frauds to be allow the home to be transferred to her, and for a lump sum payment to be made which would allow her to settle the mortgage. He ordered a payment of just under £289,00, saying this reflected the former husband’s legitimate interests in the various properties.

This payment would, said the judge, “achieve a just and equitable result and would be an appropriate balance between the Crown’s interest and those of the [wife] and the [husband] and an appropriate balance of the rights in play.”

Photo by Richard Cocks via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

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