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Wife loses appeal over unequal division in divorce settlement

A wife has lost her appeal against a divorce settlement in which she received a smaller share of the matrimonial assets than her husband.

The case involved a couple who had been married for 14 years and had a 10-year-old daughter. Shortly after the birth, the wife developed mental health problems and was diagnosed with a delusional disorder.

After the couple divorced, the husband and health professionals became concerned about the wife’s care of the daughter. The husband obtained a child arrangements order for her to live with him.

The wife had contact with the daughter, supervised by her parents, including staying overnight.

The couple had some savings but the largest asset was the matrimonial home. The husband had since remarried and had a child with his new partner.

The issue for the judge was how two households could be financed adequately out of the limited resources available. He considered the earning capacity of the husband and his new partner. He also considered the wife's earning potential and the pension position.

However, the main consideration was the welfare of the daughter, which in practice meant deciding how the husband was going to house her and his new family. The judge awarded 60% of the assets to the husband, which would allow him to buy a 3-4 bedroom house with a mortgage.

The 40% share of the assets allocated to the wife would allow her to buy a 2-3 bedroom property mortgage-free.

The wife appealed on the basis that the judge had overestimated her earning capacity and had not given sufficient consideration to her mental health problems.

However, the Court of Appeal upheld the judge’s decision. It held that the judge had been justified in giving priority to the daughter's needs.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.