A wealthy financial trader has succeeded in her appeal against a ruling that half her fortune should go to her ex-husband.
The ex-husband and wife – Robin and Julie Sharp – divorced in 2014. Both are in their 40s. They had been together for six years, initially living together before marrying. They had no children.
Julie Sharp pursued a successful career as a financial trader specialising the energy market, eventually making close to £7 million via a large salary and significant bonuses. Her husband, meanwhile, worked in IT and earned less, before taking voluntary redundancy.
They enjoyed two homes and a luxurious lifestyle before the relationship broke down and the husband moved out.
In November 2015 their divorce came before Sir Peter Singer, who ordered a ‘clean break’ – i.e. a settlement with no ongoing obligations from one party to the other. Mr Sharp would receive no less than £2,737,000, or precisely 50 per cent of the total matrimonial assets.
But Mrs Sharp was unhappy with the ruling and launched an appeal, arguing at a hearing in February that an equal division of assets in this case was unfair. The couple had never merged their finances she insisted, and her husband had claimed he was not interested in her money.
Meanwhile, Mr Sharp said he had earned his fair share by managing the couple’s two homes.
The Court has just released its decision. In a detailed ruling, Lord Justice McFarlane examined a number of legal precedents regarding the division of assets and stressed the difficulty of bringing these into alignment and reaching a conclusion in the case. He explained:
“The length of this judgment is an indication both of the potential importance of the point at issue for the discrete cohort of cases to which it may relate and of the measure of difficulty that I have encountered in resolving upon the correct way forward.”
Nevertheless he eventually concluded that:
“In the present case the husband made no contribution to the source of the wife’s bonuses and this is not a case where, save in the final year, the husband is said to have contributed more to the home life or welfare of the family than the wife. This case is, therefore, a ‘non-business partnership, non-family asset case’ where the bulk (indeed effectively all) of the property has been generated by the wife.”
As a result:
“…where both spouses have largely been in full-time employment and where only some of their finances have been pooled… fairness may require a reduction from a full 50% share or the exclusion of some property from the 50% calculation.”
The Judge therefore ordered a new settlement, in which the husband would receive one of the couple’s two homes, along with an additional lump sum of £900,000.
Stowe Family Law Senior Solicitor Graham Coy said:
“This was an exception to the general rule that assets are divided equally only because the marriage lasted just four and a half years; there were no children; both parties worked for much of the marriage; and to an extent they kept their finances separate.”
“The case demonstrates a number of important points. We see that husbands and wives are treated in the same way and that fairness is still a guiding principle, although it is near nigh impossible to give clear guidelines as to what fairness means precisely as every case is different. Nonetheless it is clearer than it was that the length of a marriage, especially when there are no children, is of real importance but probably only where there are significant assets.”
You can read the full ruling here.