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Family Law

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30 JUN 2011

The Fair Assessment of Pre-Acquired Wealth and the Responsibility for Costs: N v F

Ashley Murray

Barrister, Oriel Chambers, Liverpool

In N v F (Financial Orders: Pre-Acquired Wealth) [2011] EWHC 586 (Fam), [2011] 2 FLR (forthcoming) the parties' marriage had lasted 16 years and there were two children (15 and 8). On marriage, the husband was worth £2.116m. On divorce, the parties' entire assets, including the husband's pre-marital assets, amounted in net value to £9.714m. The central issue was the way the pre-marital wealth should be treated.

The husband (aged 58) contended that in the light of his pre-marital worth which if uprated for inflation to the date of trial could be increased from the £2.116m to £3.4m or if uprated with an allowance for some passive growth, then to £4.2m (para [2]), this was a case where it would be fair for the wife to receive less than equality by a division of the available capital worth, which represented to her some 43% or £4.17m of the total: a sum which he also submitted met her reasonable needs (para [3]).

The wife (aged 46) maintained that equality at £4.857m represented the fairer outcome and ‘barely' met her reasonable needs. The fact of the husband's pre-marital wealth should not justify departure from equality because the contribution was now historical and had been subject to an intermingling with the matrimonial property representing the husband's agreement to share the same with the wife. In any event, the husband, she claimed, had ‘alienated' certain asset values during the marriage, had more recently (2007) avoided maximising his earning potential in the financial sector in favour of employment in education and had incurred costs by his litigation conduct (para [4]).

To read the rest of this article, see July [2011] Family Law journal.

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