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04 AUG 2006

Charman Huge Money Case

Judgment in the case of Mr and Mrs Charman, handed down by Mr Justice Coleridge to the parties on 27 July 2006, was made available to the public on 3 August. It offers guidance on how parties with unusually high wealth including offshore trust assets should be treated on marriage breakdown.

Coleridge J's decision was as follows:

  • On the facts, the sizeable trust assets sequestered in a Bermuda trust by the husband should not be excluded from the marital pot".
  • The court confirmed Mr Charman's claim that his "wholly exceptional" and "remarkable abilities in the insurance world" entitled him to a greater share of the assets than his wife. Ultimately, he was awarded approximately 63% of the total assets.
  • The court dismissed what it perceived as Mr Charman's attempts to introduce by the "back door" arguments relating to Mrs Charman's conduct. He had cited her failure to move to Bermuda with him and to support his business endeavours adequately.
  • The contention that selling valuable stock would depress the value of that stock was rejected. (Those with substantial personal shareholdings who might find themselves within the provinces of the divorce courts might want to give this development some careful thought.)
  • The suggestion that payment of a large lump sum to his wife would infringe Mr Charman's human right to "peaceful enjoyment of his possessions" was rejected out of hand.

Coleridge J transferred the husband's interest in the family home in the UK to the wife and additionally ordered him to pay her a lump sum of £40m (in addition to her present assets). She exited the marriage with a total of about £48m including the assets already in her name. In percentage terms that is just under 37% of the total. The husband will accordingly retain just over 63%. For the full article by Christopher Butler of Speechly Bircham see September [2006] Fam Law.

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