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(Family Division; Bennett J; 17 March 2008)
Following a 4 year marriage between a husband with enormous pre-marital wealth and a wife with a modest career in modelling and public speaking, during which a child had been born, the wife was awarded a lump sum of £16.5 million, taking her total assets to £24.3 million. The wife's income need was assessed at £600,000 pa; after a short marriage to a very wealthy man it was unfair for the wife to expect to continue to live at the same rate as during the marriage; such an expectation was completely unrealistic. The judge rejected much of the wife's evidence, finding her a less than impressive witness, in particular he rejected her claim that the husband had damaged her career and her claim to have made an exceptional contribution. The husband had in fact encouraged and fostered the wife's career, and compensation did not arise as a factor. The marital acquest was estimated at £21.4 million, out of total assets of about £400 million. The wife's needs (generously interpreted) were not simply one of the factors in the case, but a factor of magnetic importance; in a case in which: (a) the vast bulk of the husband's enormous fortune was made not only before the marriage but before the husband and wife had even met; (b) the marital acquest was very small compared to the total assets; (c) the compensation principle was not engaged; (d) the marriage was short; (e) the standard of living lasted only so long as the marriage; (f) the wife was very comfortably housed; and (g) the child's needs were fully assured, fairness required that the wife's needs were the dominant factor.
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