Negotiating financial settlements in a divorce

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A recent divorce case in London’s Appeal Court involving a “software tycoon” Peter Morris and his wife Jane has attracted headlines when a Judge was perceived to have awarded Mrs Morris approximately 90% of the matrimonial assets in a judgment where there was “a substantial departure from equality”.

As is often the case the headlines they tend to ignore the finer details of this case. Although Mr Morris has indicated he intends to appeal the decision, and therefore the case has not yet been resolved, the case does highlight certain salient points indicating where the Courts may consider departing from the usual starting point of equality on the breakdown of a marriage between a husband and wife.

Here Mrs Morris, in the eyes of the Court, had sacrificed her career (in which she was described by the Judge as being “a competent and effective operator”) to become a house builder. The couple had children and Mr Morris was by far the greater breadwinner, with the family enjoying an extravagant lifestyle which continued (on both sides) after separation which dissipated the family assets so that, according to reports, the family fell from being a “multi million” one to a family where there were combined total assets of around £560,000.

However, the Court felt that there was a need to prioritise the wife’s and family needs which was the rationale behind the departure from equality and which left Mr Morris, according to the headlines, with little but his “anger” to show for twenty five years of marriage.

The Court felt that Mr Morris had potentially a substantially larger future earning capacity than his wife who, in sacrificing her career, had by far a lower earning capacity and “rusty skills”.

Mr Morris represented himself in Court and now faces a potential six week prison sentence for unpaid maintenance in excess of £75,000. The case was adjourned to enable Mr Morris to seek legal representation given that his liberty is seriously at stake.

The case shows that there are a number of factors that the Court can take into consideration when coming to a decision regarding financial issues, including excessive spending by one or both of the parties and the sacrificing of a career for the good of the family.

For legal advice on negotiating financial settlements or to discuss your personal circumstances, please contact us or call 01453 832566.


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