In a High Court decision in November 2015 Mr Sharp was awarded half the assets after a 4 year marriage, without children in which both parties had worked in well paid employment. Mrs Sharp appealed as she thought it unfair that her estranged husband should be entitled to a half share when she was the one who had accrued the wealth, mostly through bonus payments as City trader.
The case of Sharp is an unusual decision as it is a departure from the ‘yardstick of equality’ which has been in place since the land mark case of White v White in 2000. The basic notion is that on divorce the assets are divided equally, unless there is a good reason to depart from equality. One reason to depart from equality may arise, for example, in a case in which children need to be housed and there is not enough capital for both parties to be in a position to purchase a property.
The case law also refers to the concept of ‘fairness’ which was the reason given by the appeal court judges for overturning the High Court decision to give Mr Sharp half the assets. Mrs Sharp was successful in her arguments that it was fair to ‘depart from equality’ as this was short, childless, dual-career marriage and the parties had kept their finances separate. The Court of Appeal reduced Mr Sharp’s award from £2.725 to £2million.
So what could this mean for your divorce?
This judgement means it has become more difficult to advise clients of the likely outcome of financial remedy proceedings. Mr Sharp may decide to appeal the case to the Supreme Court which could restore the original decision of the High Court.
There are some who are now arguing that pre-nuptial agreements should become more attractive as they provide certainty, especially in short marriage cases, as to what should happen on divorce.