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ANCILLARY RELIEF: Behzadi v Behzadi [2008] EWCA Civ 1070

Date:17 OCT 2008

(Family Division; Rix, Wilson and Rimer LJJ; 8 October 2008)

On the husband's application for financial relief, the judge awarded the husband investment properties in England worth about £814,000, plus a lump sum of £130,000. The wife retained the matrimonial home, worth about £450,000, plus inherited properties in Iran worth about £460,000 and another Iranian property worth about 79,000. The judge was critical of both parties, but particularly critical of the wife; the judge found that the wife had attempted to conceal assets, could have further undisclosed property in Iran and probably had undisclosed cash resources in Iran. The wife appealed the judge's award, arguing that the £130,000 lump sum was unreasoned, and plainly excessive given that it required her to depend upon inherited assets to meet her needs.

Proper application of the sharing principle, irrespective of whether it was, in the circumstances, to result in equality, required the court to compile and articulate a balance sheet; the judge had failed to explain the calculations underlying the lump sum award. Even when a judge was in the course of delivering his judgment orally, a balance sheet of the parties' visible assets and the effect of the order proposed could conveniently be distributed to the parties on paper as part of the judgment, and incorporated in any future transcript. On examination, the judge's award gave the wife 53% of assets and the husband 47%. That might have been considered unreasonable given that much of the wife's portion had been inherited, but the wife's undisclosed assets in Iran justified the judge's approach because the non-disclosure meant that the judge was unable to tell what percentage of the family assets the husband would actually be left with. Although it was not true that a finding of undisclosed resources against a party in ancillary relief proceedings would, unless the finding itself was in question, make it impossible in practice for that party to appeal, a party's failure of disclosure placed substantial obstacles in the path of an appeal by rendering the court unable to quantify the extent of the family assets.