VV v VV  EWFC 41
Published: 13/05/2022 09:00
Acrimonious and expensive financial remedy proceedings including discussion of premarital cohabitation and engagement, their effect on sharing, and conduct. Parties were both 57, married since Jan 2020, separating in June 2020. No children. W sought half of H’s assets (£6m) and H offered her nothing other than the £400,000 he had already paid to her on account for costs.
After detailed survey of caselaw on premarital cohabitation Peel J concludes that while parties had been in ‘a committed relationship where they spent time together, were supportive and affectionate, and shared dreams and ideas’, this ‘fell short of cohabitation equating to marital norms’, which did not occur until December 2019. Moreover, while parties’ engagement was relevant to assessing their mutual commitment and shared life, it did not by itself give rise to a sharing claim.
On conduct, H had failed to disclose sale of (non-matrimonial) shares to court, in fear of W’s interference. This was litigation misconduct, but he had not hidden the proceeds. On the other hand, W had blocked sale of H’s shares by communicating with the founder of the relevant company and in contrast to H’s misconduct, this was held to be obvious and gross misconduct (s 25/Wachtel). In so doing, she caused H tens of millions of pounds of financial loss. This outweighed any sharing claim. W awarded her needs: sufficient to cover her debts (modest mortgage and far greater legal fees), capitalised maintenance for 3 years, and her existing assets. Total £750,000 plus the £400k already paid. Costs to be determined.