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23 DEC 2014

Cooper-Hohn v Hohn [2014] EWHC 4122 (Fam)

Cooper-Hohn v Hohn [2014] EWHC 4122 (Fam)
(Family Division, Roberts J, 12 December2014)

[The judicially approved judgment and accompanying headnote is now published in Family Law Reports [2015] 1 FLR 745]

Financial remedies – Special contribution –Departure from equality

Please see attached file below for the full judgment

The wife was awarded $530m after the judgefound the husband’s special contribution and post-separation accrual of wealthjustified a significant departure from equality.

In financial remedy proceedings initiatedby the wife the parties had assets totaling between $1.35bn and £1.6bn. Inaddition to their personal wealth a further $4.5bn had been channeled into acharitable foundation.

In relation to the personal wealth thehusband submitted that much of the sum represented post-separation accrualsince the breakdown of the marriage in 2012. He claimed this justified adeparture from the principle of equality. Furthermore he contended that hiscreation of wealth fell to be considered as a special and unmatchedcontribution which also justified a reduction in the wife’s entitlement. Heproposed that the wife should receive one-third of the assets available inApril 2012 when the marriage broke down and one half of one third of thepost-separation accrual since then. The wife sought a full and equal share ofthe current assets.

The law required the court to consider thevalue of the assets as they stood at the date of trial. The relevance of thedate of separation lay in the interruption of spousal contributions. Each casewas fact specific and there was no presumption of equal division nor any biasin favour of the money earner. A departure from equality was permitted on thebasis of a special contribution including the acquisition of wealth through theexercise of some special individual skill and effort.

On the facts of this case a significantdeparture from equality in the husband’s favour was entirely justified by thecompounding factors of post-separation accrual and special contribution. Thefinancial returns were achieved by the husband’s activist investment strategiesand there was no guarantee that they could have been matched by the wife.Wealth creation on the scale achieved by the husband was possible due to hisability to identify a new investment opportunity and make it work. Theinvestments created by the husband after the separation fell at a point toodistant from the essential character of the matrimonial partnership to qualify.

The wife was awarded $530m from available assetsof just under $1.5bn which equated to 36% of the global resources. The wifewould bear her share of any contingent tax risks and she also had to makeprovision for the escrow which would be established in respect of taxindemnity. Such an award properly reflected her contributions and her entitledto a fair share of the marital acquest and post-separation accrual.

Case No: FD12D01549

Neutral Citation Number: [2014] EWHC 4122 (Fam)

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
Date: 12 December 2014

Before :

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Between :


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Martin Pointer QC, Stephen Brandon QC, Geoffrey Kingscote and Oliver Marre (instructed by Mishcon de Reya) for the Petitioner Wife
Lewis Marks QC, Elizabeth Clarke and Emma Chamberlain  (instructed by Withers LLP) for the Respondent Husband

Hearing dates: 1st to the 11th July 2014

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Cooper-Hohn v Hohn [2014] EWHC 4122 (Fam) 

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