Divorces where there is considerable family wealth often lead to protracted arguments, and a recent case illustrates the problems that can arise if one of the couple comes from a wealthy family, but is himself or herself of relatively modest means.

The case dealt with a couple's divorce after a short (two-year) marriage. The husband's income, which derives from his billionaire father, is about £10,000 per month. He claimed to have net assets of a few hundred thousand pounds.

His ex-wife sought a settlement of a £3 million lump sum and £10,000 per month in maintenance for herself and the couple's daughter. She argued that the massive wealth of her ex-husband's father meant that he would be able to provide such a settlement.

Her former father-in-law vigorously denied that his son had any entitlement to his assets.

The judge observed that the obvious main need was for a reasonable home for the couple's daughter and her mother, plus a reasonable level of income support. However, he concluded that it would be 'highly dangerous for the court to proceed in this, or any other similar case, on the basis of crossing its fingers and hoping that such a rich parent would pay up more or less at any level'.

In a decision which involved a careful balancing of needs and likely ability to pay, the judge ordered that a property in London be transferred to the wife free of mortgage and that maintenance be set at £4,000 per month.

Cases such as this present significant problems for the courts, which will always seek to find a solution that is fair to both parties given the individual circumstances.

For further information on this article, please contact Amanda Holland on 0121 698 2200, email a.holland@sydneymitchell.co.uk or fill in our online enquiry form.

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