Wife v Husband  EWFC 273 (B)6 June 2023
Published: 06/02/2024 17:06
DJ Masters. Small money case heard by a district judge. Final hearing where H dissipated inheritance received during the marriage.
H (49) and W (55). The parties had one son (20). Tragically, the judgment records that the stress of this case contributed to the death of W’s older son by suicide in 2019. H was a TV aerial subcontractor. W suffered from various health issues including which meant that she would probably never work again. The parties finally separated in October 2018. There was a dispute as to whether there had been effective reconciliation between the parties after the divorce petition was issued in 2013. H said that although he did not leave the FMH until October 2018, there had not been effective reconciliation as suggested by W.
The FMH was held in H’s sole name. There was a dispute between the parties on the value of the FMH. Depending on whose figures were accepted, the net equity in the FMH was c.£65,000 to £85,000. During the parties’ marriage H received an inheritance of c.£244,847 from an aunt. W submitted that due to sale of a property forming part of the aunt’s estate, H in fact had a further £60–70,000 of inheritance.
H’s position was that at the conclusion of the marriage he needed to dissipate the remaining proceeds of sale £80,000 to loan sharks due to debts that had been accrued during the marriage. W’s position was that H had been deliberately dissipating assets to defeat her claims. The court found that there was no evidence of him sending money to loan sharks, but he had spent £5,000 on Lego and had transferred around £325,000 to his new partner.
H also had an army pension of c.£47,858 earned prior to the parties commencing their relationship.
The parties had a lengthy litigation history. In October 2019 W made an application under s 37 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (MCA 1973) to prevent H from dealing with assets. That order was granted by District Judge Isles. H was reluctant to engage, resulting in W applying for H’s committal. That committal application was ultimately struck out, but H was ordered to engage and file his Form E and respond to W’s schedule of deficiencies. In September 2022 the matter was listed for preliminary hearing and W was directed to make a formal s 37 application. This was not done and in December 2022 W applied for relief from sanctions. W was ordered to file another s 37 application ‘if so advised’. No formal s 37 application was before the court but the court regarded it as clear that W was taking a stance that H had deliberately dissipated assets to defeat her claim.
- The date of separation and whether H’s inheritance could be regarded as matrimonial.
- Whether H had deliberately dissipated assets and, any impact this should have on an award.
- How H’s army pension should be treated.
H’s inheritance should be regarded as part of the matrimonial pot; . The husband knew full well that the wife was expecting a half-share of a property bought with the inheritance. He had intermingled the money from the inheritance by spending on both cars and holidays, issues he himself did not dispute. His evidence was shifty and unreliable.
H had deliberately sought to evade the matrimonial claims made by W and this had to influence any award made; .
This was a needs case. The FMH should be transferred to W on the basis that W uses her best endeavours to release H from the mortgage. If this could not be achieved in three months from the date of the order, the FMH should be sold, and W should retain the entirety of the net equity; . The court was satisfied that there was ample evidence to draw adverse inferences against H and find that he would also be able to discharge a lump sum order of £23,275; .
H’s army pension was ‘unarguably a pre-marital asset’ that in normal circumstances the court would not invade to make an award to W; . The court concluded that in the circumstances it had no choice but to look to H’s pension. W was therefore awarded a 50% share of H’s pension with implementation costs shared equally; . The court did not award a PSO over the entirety of H’s pension as it did not ‘feel it is fair to deprive the husband of the entirety after a lengthy relationship’; .