The Court of Appeal has upheld a divorce settlement granting the wife of a troubled oil trader more than half the couple’s assets.
The couple originally met in Monte Carlo in 1990, within the Mediterranean city state of Monaco, where the wife worked as a bank clerk. They married in 1994 and enjoyed considerable success, leading a wealthy lifestyle, with an investment portfolio and properties in both St Tropez and central London.
But the husband’s life began to spin out of control in 2003. He began to drink to excess, developed an addiction to cocaine and started to hire escorts.
By 2009, the wife had left and divorce proceedings began. A court heard that the man spent as much as £200,000 per year on alcohol, drugs and women, while the wife was unable to find work. She was awarded £7.4 million in settlement by the court – leaving £6.2 million for the husband.
He appealed, arguing that he was being punished for an addictive illness. His counsel insisted to the court that he had been caught up “in the teeth of compulsion”, saying:
“There’s nothing morally culpable about a man who suffers from an addiction…addiction is punishment enough.”
The wife’s counsel, meanwhile, said she had tried to help her husband overcome his problems.
But the Court of Appeal concluded that the original judge had been justified in departing from the ‘sharing principle’ in family law, which states that in most instances matrimonial assets should be divided equally between a divorcing couple.
Lady Justice Black explained that Judge Everall had departed from the sharing principle for two key reasons:
“The first reason was that it was necessary in order to cater for the wife’s needs and would still leave the husband with sufficient to meet his needs. The second reason was the husband’s conduct, which the judge accepted had led to “the reckless frittering away of family money“.
The husband still had a significant earning capacity and a good income from his investments. But the wife’s needs could only be met with her larger award.
The ruling can be read in full here.