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High Court decision on inherited assets on divorce

In a recent High Court Judgment of 12 August 2011 Mr Justice Moylan ruled that the sharing principle should not be applied to a husband's inherited assets. The full case report has not been published but the facts are as follows. 

The couple were married for 25 years and their total wealth amounted to between £21 and £24m. The husband had inherited several farms, a shooting estate, other land, shares in a family company and a substantial investment portfolio from his father. During the marriage the couple lived on a large rural estate and had enjoyed a standard of living which the wife described as " extremely high, with no money worries and no restraints on our spending". 

The wife already had £1m of assets in her own name and was seeking an additional £6m lump sum to meet her needs after the divorce. The Judge decided that the wealth of the couple was not the product of their endeavours; the husband's inherited wealth was non-matrimonial and so the sharing principle should not apply. 

The Judge awarded the wife £3.3m on top of her existing £1m of assets which (despite the acknowledgment that the couple "enjoyed a very good standard of living") he ruled to be a generous assessment of her financial needs. 

The consistent theme which emerges from the recent cases is that where the applicant's needs have already been met there is no need for the Court to go further and subject all the non-matrimonial assets to the sharing principle.

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