Love at first sight, or in the recent case of VV - VV, across a crowded Eurostar carriage in March 2018, may be a romantic notion but when that love fades, in this case very quickly, it can become a very costly and lengthy process to disentangle a couple and their finances.
In March 2019 the parties were engaged and the husband presented his wife to be with a £125,000 engagement ring.
The parties moved into a property in Kensington, London, both having sold their previous properties and subsequently married on 25 January 2020.
However, it did not turn out to be the ‘Happy Ever After’ but lasted a mere 5 months before finally ending in June 2020.
For such a short marriage and with no children involved one could assume that the divorce would be simple. However, not so in this case where love turned to animosity with both parties spending vast sums of money litigating on the financial intricacies of the matter for almost 2 years.
In Mr Justice Peel's judgment he explains that the case involved five principal issues: the extent of pre-marital cohabitation; linked to this, the extent to which the sharing principle applied to the husband's assets; whether the husband was guilty of misconduct; whether the wife was guilty of misconduct; and the wife's needs.
The substance of this case revolved around the husband’s business interests in a company he began working for in 2018 where he was awarded units in the company. He went on to ‘pre-sell’ some of these units without telling his wife. He was thwarted from the pre-selling by actions his wife had taken without his knowledge which prevented the sale. The price of the units plummeted from $450 -$700 to $22.54 causing a substantial loss in value and the husband suffering considerable losses amount to tens of million dollars.
The wife had claimed that the husband's units were accrued during the cohabitation/marriage, and therefore formed part of the matrimonial assets. Mr Justice Peel found that cohabitation did not start until December 2019 and therefore did not form part of the matrimonial assets and the Husband’s case was upheld. She was also ordered to pay £100,000 towards her husband’s costs due to “a consequence of her litigation conduct”
The actual facts of the case were, of course, far more detailed than the mere outline given above.
Sometimes allowing the heart to rule the head and rushing into a marriage, particularly where the couple are on second marriages or have built up considerable financial assets in their own right, is not always the most sensible course of action. This is the reason many couples are now taking out pre-nuptial agreements so that should difficulties arise down the line there is a clear understanding between the parties as to how their assets, individual and joint, will be dealt with.
It also shows that it is in every couple’s best interests to deal with their divorce and financial settlements as amicably as possible and to seek legal advice early in the process to avoid the protracted process when couples simply ‘lock horns’ in a battle from which neither party benefits.
At Spectrum Family law our expert team can advise on all aspects of Pre-Nuptial Agreements, Co-Habitation Agreements and Financial Remedy.
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