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11 Apr 2018

Court of Appeal deliver decision on special contributions in divorce cases

The Court of Appeal has today (11 April) released its judgment in Work v Gray, a case involving a husband who sought to argue that the financial award made to his wife ought to be lower due to his 'special contribution' during the marriage.

It raises interesting questions about how the roles of breadwinner and homemaker are considered in financial disputes on divorce and how the Court must try to achieve fairness between the two in big money cases, says law firm Boodle Hatfield. The courts have, however, declined to identify a threshold for the likely application of this concept.

James Ferguson, partner and head of family Law at Boodle Hatfield said: “Many family law practitioners do not like the concept because it appears to fly in the face of settled law that contributions to the home and family life are as important as the creation of wealth; there is to be no discrimination between the two.

“While Mr Work did not succeed in persuading the Court that he had made a special contribution, the appeal judges have kept the principle alive and it seems we will have to wait for its abolition if it is again tested in the Supreme Court.”

James adds: “The decision clarifies that in such cases, the focus is to be on whether there is a disparity of contribution and whether there is a sufficient disparity to make it inequitable to disregard; it is not whether the contribution is ‘unmatched’ as previously considered.

“The principle is only likely to be considered in cases where there are very substantial assets and we suspect it will become increasingly difficult for, invariably, the husband to succeed in proving that a contribution has been wholly exceptional.”