Divorce payout appeal fails as wealth was obtained before marriage

By Lenore Rice

The Appeal Court has refused a woman’s bid to increase her £3.5million divorce payout from her property tycoon husband, in a case that illustrates the difference between wealth accumulated before the marriage, and wealth obtained during, when it comes to dividing assets on separation.

Karen Hart, now aged 61, was an air hostess when she began living with John Hart 34 years ago. Mr Hart was already wealthy before their marriage, with an estimated fortune of £2.6million. When the couple divorced in 2011 the family wealth was estimated at £9.4million. Mrs Hart was awarded a divorce payout of £3.5million to cover her “reasonable needs”, which her barrister, Nicola Walker, described as “unfair and discriminatory”, citing the general principle of equal sharing of assets.

Mr Hart’s barrister argued that the marriage “was not a case where a couple grew their assets together”, and that the original divorce settlement was not unfair, having provided Mrs Hart with “a home, holiday home, a lifetime income at a very considerable figure and clear of liabilities”

Lord Justice Moylan found that Mr Hart had not been fully compliant in providing evidence of the extent of his assets, but said that the previous judge had not made any error in finding that “the husband had substantial wealth at the commencement of the relationship” and awarding £3.5million to Mrs Hart.

Nicola Walker described the decision as setting a “dangerous precedent” in its departure from the 20-year old principle that “divorcing spouses should share equally in the fruits of their matrimonial partnership.”

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