Posted on 29.7.14 by Nicola Fraser
We should spare a moment for those who make finalising their divorce settlements tougher than competing in the Tour de France, the London Marathon and every event at the Games in Glasgow combined. It’s not so much ‘Going for Gold’ as keeping hold of it with equal intensity to Gollum!
Centre of the legal arena right now are Mr & Mrs Hohn. Mr Hohn is a billionaire and Mrs Hohn wants to change that by having an equal slice of the spoils rather than the 25% on the starting blocks. The argument between Team MR and Team MRS is all about ‘contributions’ – i.e. MR says he should keep the bulk of the lucre that he made as a stellar hedge fund manager and MRS say that she was instrumental in making that possible so it should be ‘even stevens’. The totally delicious irony in this one is that the funds were generated by “Philanthropy” (The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation), and to cap it off, Mr Hohn giving evidence stated “I don’t really care about money”.
Whilst there is nothing very common about that kind of wealth, there are some relevant themes for the rest of us (personal enmity aside!) In particular, whilst the starting point for all divorce settlements is an equal division of the assets, there are very real arguments that can be brought to bear in respect of unequal contributions from the parties. These might be assets such as investments, pensions or properties that were held before the marriage or acquired post-separation by one party and those will be relevant in adjusting the division away from equality – always with the caveat however, that whatever the remaining assets might be, they are sufficient to meet the ‘reasonable needs’ of the other party and any relevant children.
It’s important too to be aware that ‘contributions’ are not always financial. The courts make no distinction between the contribution one spouse may make in looking after the home and children and the salary brought in by the other. The central issue is that those assets acquired through the joint efforts of the parties are what may be termed “common wealth”, and it is these assets acquired by either party during the course of the marriage, that a court will be primarily concerned to divide.
And the ‘Games’ that people play? Put it this way, Tywin Lannister would be put in the shade!