Outcome: Appeal allowed.
1 The Husband appealed against the decision of the High Court judge to award 75% of the matrimonial assets to the Wife. Of note is the unusual facts leading to the breakdown of the marriage. First, the marriage broke down 5 years before the interim judgment was granted. Second, there was a negative value in the Wife’s indirect contributions. Third, the Wife acknowledged the absence of indirect contribution from her to the family from March 2010.
2 The Court of Appeal allowed the Husband’s appeal and reversed the ratio of assets to 75:25 in the Husband’s favour.
3 While marriage is an equal co-operative partnership of efforts, this does not mean that the contributions of both parties in a marriage are always equal. The court must have regard to all the circumstances of the case, including the extent of the contributions made by each party towards acquiring matrimonial assets and to the welfare of the family: at .
4 Where one spouse not only fails to contribute to the marriage, but also engages in conduct that fundamentally undermines the co-operative partnership and harms the welfare of the other, the court can ascribe a negative value to his or her conduct: at .
5 The threshold for the court to ascribe a negative contribution is a high one, and conduct must be both extreme and undisputed. The intention is not to turn the ancillary matters hearing into another opportunity for parties to fling false allegations at one another. The power to divide matrimonial assets does not exist to serve a punitive function and all factors must be considered in a holistic manner. The court will also have regard to the conduct of both parties; where both sides are engaged in a mutually destructive exercise, it will not ascribe a negative value: at .The full text of the decision can be found here.
This summary is provided to assist the public to have a better understanding of the Court’s judgment. It is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the Court. All numbers in bold font and square brackets refer to the corresponding paragraph numbers in the Court’s judgment.