Wife who sacrificed career challenges divorce settlement

By Lenore Rice

A woman who gave up her successful career when she became pregnant is appealing against the amount awarded to her in a divorce case, saying she should receive more of her husband's £11million fortune.

Julia and Nicholas Hammans are said to have been earning largely similar wages when she became pregnant with their first child. She agreed with her husband that she would give up her job as finance director of Dickens and Jones and her seat on the board. Nicholas Hammans eventually become a partner at Price Waterhouse Coopers, earning approximately £800,000 a year. They had two children together, but after 21 years of marriage the couple separated.

Mr Justice Coleridge of the High Court Family Division ruled that Mrs Hammans needed £80,000-a-year to live on, which she could largely fund herself by selling her £1.75million property, and her £1million in savings. Mr Hammans was only required to pay her £400,000. That decision has now been taken to the Court of Appeal, with Mrs Hammans alleging that the division of wealth was unfair as she "sacrificed" her career, and that decision had helped her husband's career take off. She is seeking an additional £2.2million so that she will not need to sell her home.

Mr Hamman's legal representative queried the value of maintaining a 6-bedroom, 3-reception room Edwardian property for just one person, and feels the previous division of wealth was generous. A decision will be given by the court at a later date.

The case raises an important issue that comes up frequently in divorces involving two spouses with successful careers. When one of the spouses consciously decides to walk away from their career in order to take care of the family, the court will take that decision into consideration when assessing the respective wealth of the two parties, and how their assets should be split.

If you require legal advice from a divorce solicitor in Northern Ireland, contact Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast by calling 0800 840 1363.