Woman wins challenge to 'equality of division' divorce settlement

Updated: 

A wealthy career woman has successfully challenged a ruling that her former husband should get half of the fortune she built up during their ''short'' marriage.

Energy trader Julie Sharp and IT consultant Robin Sharp were both high earners on salaries of around £100,000 when they met, but during the relationship she also received bonuses totalling £10.5 million over a five-year period.

A family judge ruled in 2015 that the "principled outcome" was that Mr Sharp should receive half of the "matrimonial pot".

He ended up with a total payment of £2.725 million, which represented 50% of the total matrimonial assets of £5.45 million.

That outcome was later challenged by Mrs Sharp at the Court of Appeal.

On Tuesday, three judges in London announced that they had allowed her appeal.

Lord Justice McFarlane, Lord Justice McCombe and Lord Justice David Richards ruled the total award should be £2 million, made up of a property valued at £1.1 million, which is to be transferred to him, plus a lump sum of £900,000.

During a hearing in February the judges were told it was a six-year relationship, and a ''four-year marriage to separation'', and her case was that ''because this was a short marriage he should not get half of the matrimonial pot''.

The couple met in 2007 and married in June 2009.

Their marriage ended in 2014, and they had no children.

By the time they split up, after she discovered he had started a new relationship, the ''matrimonial pot'' stood at £6.9 million.

But, the final pot to which ''the sharing principle'' applied was reduced to £5.45 million after concessions from the husband relating to the value of a property in Gloucestershire bought by his wife before they married, and to Mrs Sharp's £350,000 of ''pre-acquired and unmingled assets''.

In his 2015 ruling, Sir Peter Singer said: ''No sufficient reason has been identified in this case for departing from equality of division. 

"The fact that this is in effect a husband's claim against a wife rather than the more conventional claim of a wife against husband emphatically does not call for a discount.''

The appeal judges were told Mrs Sharp, 44, had offered around £1.2 million to ''comfortably'' meet the needs of her ex-husband, 43.

The Sharps, who were described as being of ''relatively modest'' origins, were both earning ''substantial salaries'' when they met.

Mr Sharp had taken voluntary redundancy in October 2012 and was renovating their £2 million Gloucestershire home.

In September or October 2013 they separated when the wife became aware her husband had been ''pursuing a new relationship for some time and the marriage in practical terms came to an end'', the judges heard.

Announcing the court's decision to cut the award, Lord Justice McFarlane said nothing in the judgment "is intended in any manner to unsettle the clear understanding that has been reached ... on the approach that is to be taken in the vast majority of cases".

He added: "The focus of the present appeal, which is very narrow, is upon whether there is a fringe of cases that may lie outside the equal sharing principle."