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Boodle Hatfield advises on first Court of Appeal case on the breakdown of a civil partnership

The Court of Appeal ruled on 29th March on the separation of Priscilla Queen of the Desert star, Don Gallagher, from his former partner City equity analyst Peter Lawrence. James Ferguson of Boodle Hatfield advised Don Gallagher.

Following a High Court decision that awarded Don Gallagher 42 per cent of the couple's assets, the Court of Appeal has reduced Don's settlement by 9 per cent to just 33 per cent of the couple's assets. The Court of Appeal ordered that the High Court decision that Don should retain the couple's country cottage worth just under £900,000 and that he should receive £200,000 of Mr Lawrence's pension should be upheld but that the lump sum of £577,778 which the judge ordered Mr Lawrence to pay to Don should be reduced to £350,000 and Don should no longer share in Mr Lawrence's deferred compensation awards from his employment.

Commenting on the decision and on behalf Don Gallagher, James Ferguson, a partner in the Family team at Boodle Hatfield said: "In one sense, this is a disappointing decision for my client. The High Court judge's decision has been overturned, despite the fact that the appeal judge described it as "a careful and conscientious judgment". The appeal judge was critical of the High Court judge's method of calculating the lump sum figure of £577,778 but failed to set out the rationale for substituting it with the lower figure of £350,000. However, Don has still come away with far more than Mr Lawrence ever offered him and the outcome is much closer to Don's original proposal than Mr Lawrence's.

"Although the Court of Appeal make it clear that civil partnership dissolution cases should be treated in exactly the same way as divorces, it is questionable whether the outcome would have been the same if the facts had been transposed to an 11.7 year heterosexual marriage."

Following the breakdown of the couple's 11 year relationship Don Gallagher's ex civil partner offered him just 13 per cent of the couple's combined assets of £4.1 million, which included a Thames-side apartment worth £2.4million and a thatched cottage in Sussex worth just under £900,000.

"Such an offer is significantly less than what a Court would consider to be reasonable for either divorcing heterosexual couples or separating civil partners in these circumstances," says James.

"The Court of Appeal recognised this, calling Peter's initial offer as 'quite unrealistic' and 'so far from achievable as to be almost fanciful'".

James adds: "Don was not asking for the valuable main London home nor did he ask for overall equality. All he wanted was a fair and just outcome and to retain the weekend cottage in Sussex, to which he has devoted an enormous amount of time and effort, with an additional modest sum to provide him, as an actor, with some financial security for the future.

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