In a telling example of divorce affecting multiple generations, the High Court has cut the Gordian knot of a former couple’s marriage in circumstances where almost the entirety of their wealth – totalling over £6 million – emanated from the generosity of the husband’s father.
The husband, aged 62, had never worked in a conventional sense and had relied on financial support from his father, a successful property investor. The wife, aged 46, was a mathematics graduate who had a residual earning capacity although she had devoted herself to the care of their nine-year-old daughter. Both parties had been married before and the husband had three children by his previous wife.
The assets of the marriage consisted largely of the husband’s £4 million interest in a Lichtenstein foundation established by his father before his death and the former matrimonial home, a Georgian town house in central London which was valued at £6 million but was subject to a substantial mortgage.
The wife argued that she was entitled to a £2.1 million housing fund to enable her to remain living in Kensington and Chelsea as well as maintenance of £98,000 a year for herself and the couple’s daughter. The husband countered with offers of a £1 million housing fund and total maintenance of £48,000 a year.
The Court found that the husband had, to some degree, tried to conceal the true extent of his wealth from the wife. However, whilst very comfortable, the couple’s lifestyle during the marriage had not been as opulent as it had been painted by the wife. She had remained in the marital home, whilst he had moved to a rented flat nearby.
In striking a balance between the parties, the Court took into account the interests of the husband’s three older children and the fact that his father had been the source of almost all the couple’s wealth and had, in establishing the Lichtenstein foundation, wished to benefit all his grandchildren equally.
Noting that, with neither party working, the funds available were bound to run down over time, the Court directed a sale of the former matrimonial home and awarded the wife a £1.6 million housing fund from the proceeds. Maintenance to the wife and the couple’s child was fixed at £65,000 a year and the husband was made liable to pay his daughter’s private school fees.