201710.20

Husband Entitled to Treat £5.1 Million Divorce Settlement as Final

Family judges respect reasonable financial settlements agreed between separating couples as a means of promoting finality in divorce proceedings. In one big money case, the Court of Appeal ruled that a man who reached a £5.1 million compromise with his ex-wife was entitled to treat that as the end of the matter.

Both husband and wife were Russian and the source of their wealth was his father, an extremely rich businessman and philanthropist. When they separated in 2009, they had marital assets worth about $13 million. Following negotiations in Russia, it was agreed that she would receive about $10 million of that.

The husband’s father had continued to support him financially and he had enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle since the divorce. The wife and the couple’s three children were said to live more modestly and she applied to the High Court under the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 for an order requiring the husband to make further provision for her. She was awarded an additional £1.14 million.

In upholding the husband’s challenge to that ruling, the Court of Appeal found that the wife’s needs had been adequately provided for by the settlement and that she had wrongly been granted a second bite of the cherry. Under the settlement, she had received a flat in Moscow worth $5 million, another $5 million in cash and a guaranteed annuity of £240,000 per year if the husband died before her. She had also been granted the right to live rent free in the former couple’s Central London home – worth about £5 million – until the children reached the age of 18.

The Court noted that the settlement properly reflected her contribution as a wife, mother and homemaker and that it was hard, if not impossible, for her to argue that the settlement was unjust or had caused her hardship. A mere disparity between what she received in Russia and what she might have received in England did not justify the additional award. The settlement had been freely reached after the wife had received advice from both Russian and English lawyers and her five-year delay in launching the proceedings had in part been tactical.

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