Katie O'Callaghan, Boodle Hatfield
It is Britain's biggest ever divorce award. A High Court judge has told a City banker to hand over £453 million to his estranged wife
The couple –
who cannot be identified –
followed the blueprint of so many big-money divorce cases that reach the courts.
The 44-year-old wife had spent their 20-year-plus marriage at home, bringing up the couple’s two children. She argued that she was due nearly a half-share of the couple’s £1 billion fortune because of her 'equal contributions to the welfare of the family'.
The 61-year-old husband claimed to have showered his wife with jewellery, credit cards and access to a private plane, yacht and helicopter. He added that he was rich before the marriage and that he had made a 'special contribution' to the creation of wealth.
The judge disagreed and awarded the wife 41.5 per cent of the 'total marital assets', including their £90m art collection and £350,000 Aston Martin.
We mere mortals may not be able to identify with the huge sums involved here. But it is a vitally important case. This verdict supports the notion that there should no discrimination between breadwinners. Staying at home and raising the children is as important as working 12 hours a day on the trading floor.
London is called ‘the divorce capital of the world’ –
and for good reason. The capital is one of the most generous cities in the world for the financially weaker spouse (usually the wife) to split up. Here, the starting point in any divorce is that the assets should be divided between both parties 50:50.
The premise behind this concept of ‘sharing the pot' is that the domestic role within a marriage –
such as looking after the home and raising children –
should stand on an equal footing with the financial contributions made by the main breadwinner.
You may not be surprised to hear that wealthy husbands are constantly looking for ways to get around this. One of these is to argue that they have made a 'special contribution' to the generation of the family wealth –
i.e. their financial input to the marriage was so significant that they should be left with a higher proportion of the pot –
as the husband in this case did.
The concept of special contribution has been argued by many but has only actually succeeded three times.
The most recent was that of billionaire hedge fund manager Sir Chris Hohn, who was ordered to hand a third of his £1bn fortune to his wife in 2014
. She had fought for half. In that case, the judge ruled that Mr Hohn was a 'financial genius' and the 'generating force' behind the couple’s wealth. Until this week, that represented the highest asset case ever determined by the English Court.