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Millions lost due to conduct in court

View profile for Karen Johnson
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Millions lost due to conduct in court

This case involved a husband, aged 41, and a wife, aged 38, who both came from very wealthy Indian families. They were married in 2003. The marriage broke down and they separated in 2017. 

Following the breakdown, the husband started to hear rumours that the 8 year old boy, he thought was his son, might not be biologically his. This was confirmed in two subsequent paternity tests. The wife later admitted that she had slept with another man but denied that she ever suspected that her husband was not the biological father. The husband, understandably, felt that he had been tricked into raising another man’s child.

The husband and wife were both from very wealthy families. The standard of living during the marriage was extremely high. They had a family home in London and several other properties around the world. 

They flew by private jet or first class and the court considered that their annual outgoings were around £5million although the wife sought to suggest that they were twice that. Both made cross applications to the court to determine the financial issues arising as a result of their divorce.

The husband sought to persuade the court that the wife’s conduct in concealing the fact that he might not be the son’s biological father was a factor that should be taken into account. He also sought to suggest that much of his own assets were subject to a family arrangement and effectively held on trust or loaned to him and subject to being called back by the family members.

The judge did not agree with the husband’s contention that he was not beneficially entitled to the assets as he had suggested and was also convinced that the husband had other assets which he had failed to disclose. This included companies in which the husband was known to have an interest but refused to provide any information to the single joint expert and a further interest in a trust which he had failed to disclose the fact that it owned further property through a subsidiary company.

The judge was also convinced that he had a beneficial interest in other assets too, held in other’s names on his behalf but could not quantify the same.

On the matter as to whether the wife’s concealment of the paternity issue was conducted, it would be inequitable to disregard. The judge found that it was impossible that the prospect that the husband was not the biological father had not crossed her mind and that this was a factor which could reduce the amount that would be received by the wife to reflect a fair outcome.

However, the final outcome was to award the wife £64 million, which represented 50% of the marital assets as identified. This comprised the family home (£15million) and a lump sum of £49 million and in addition the husband was ordered to pay for the sons school fees and education expenses plus a further £60,000 per annum. 

The judge felt that such an award would be more than sufficient to meet the wife’s needs and that she could not expect to continue to enjoy the same standard of living as she had during the marriage.

Consideration of the judgement in this case makes it clear to see that the parties conduct effectively cancelled each other out.

The husband’s failure to provide financial disclosure and litigation misconduct meant that the court would not reduce the wife’s award for fear of doubly penalising her. It would also be fair to read into this that but for the wife’s deceit in relation to the paternity issue, she might have received a greater share of the identifiable matrimonial assets to take into account the assets which the husband had not disclosed.  

Whilst, most people can only dream of how they might spend £5million per annum, the issues that this case addresses are not limited to the rich. Conduct is a factor that can have an impact on the outcome of a case but if you are going to raise it, it is imperative that you yourself behave appropriately. As the saying goes “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”.

Our specialist family lawyers at Birkett Long LLP are able to advise on the whole range of family related legal issues. For an initial free chat to discuss how I can help you, I can be contacted on 01206 217305 or karen.johnson@birkettlong.co.uk.

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