Before Easter, Asos co-founder Nick Robertson, the 298th richest man in the world, found himself £70 million poorer after a High Court Judge awarded his wife £70million, a third of his fortune. In making the award, Mr Justice Holman reiterated the point that marriage is a partnership of equals.
The Judge acknowledged that Mr Robertson was the “moneymaker” in the marriage, but pointed out that Mrs Robertson had been “an excellent homemaker and an excellent mother”.
This is not the only high-profile divorce in the papers this month. A High Court has also ordered the Chairman of Laura Ashley, Dr Khoo Kay Peng, to offer his estranged wife settlement of their divorce after running up legal bills of £6.1 million. The 21-day ultimatum is the first time a British Court has exercised its powers to order an ‘open offer of settlement’ to avoid further escalating legal costs.
Divorce is a traumatic, stressful experience for everyone involved. Divorce among high-net-worth individuals can provide extra challenges in the form of negotiating spousal and child maintenance, uncovering and dividing assets (including those held off-shore), and sorting out tax liabilities and pensions.
Spousal Maintenance and Child Support
Settlements for spousal maintenance and child support can reach eye-watering amounts when wealthy spouses decide to part company. In cases involving middle-income parents, the approach to child support payments is more formulaic. However, high-net-worth couples tend to have children in fee-paying schools, receiving extra tuition and participating in expensive hobbies. This means the child support payments tend to be based on the ‘needs’ of the child, which is a subjective test and can lead to battles amongst parents where top up payments are sought.
The sum of spousal maintenance sometimes awarded to the more financially vulnerable spouse (usually the wife) in high-net-worth divorces can seem excessive; however, it has to be remembered that in many cases one party gives up their career and future earning potential to support the spouse who is working.
The Court will take into account the following when deciding on the amount of spousal maintenance to be awarded:
- each partner’s needs, assets and ability to earn income;
- the standard of living before the break-up of the marriage;
- how long you have been married and how old you are;
- any special needs such as a disability;
- the contributions each spouse made to the marriage (this can be financial contribution but can also be contribution by looking after the home and bringing up children).
Often wealthy individuals going through a divorce argue over substantial businesses involving shares, and domestic and off-shore assets. This can lead to complications when negotiating financial settlements. It is imperative that both parties seek an accurate valuation of any businesses, assets and pensions involved in the financial settlement to ensure each receives a fair settlement.
In 2015, the Supreme Court delivered a landmark victory to spouses who claim that marital assets have been hidden from the Court during divorce proceedings.
The case involved two women, Alison Sharland, and Varsha Gohil, who both said their ex-husbands misled judges about how much they were worth. The Court held that spouses have a duty to make full and frank disclosure of all relevant information to one another and the Court.
The women’s divorce settlements were subsequently re-opened.
The case has been seen as a stark warning to those who seek to hide or misrepresent assets during a divorce case.
If you are involved in a high-net-worth divorce it is vital to seek legal advice from a Solicitor who is not only experienced in the legal aspects involved in the settlement but has connections to financial advisors and wealth managers who can help uncover assets and unpick complicated corporate structures to ensure you receive a fair and just settlement.
Sultan Lloyd Solicitors have the experience and expertise required to successfully advise clients on high-net-worth divorce. To find out how we can help you, please call our Birmingham office on 0121 222 7643 to make an appointment with one of our family law team.