Lawyers Reflect: Wife awarded 100% of family wealth upon divorce

A recent decision by the Court of Appeal to order a hospital consultant to hand over his entire fortune to his wife upon their divorce has grabbed the attention of family lawyers recently.

The facts of this case are that Mr and Mrs Aly separated in 2011. Upon separation Mr Aly relocated to Bahrain. Since 2012 he failed to pay any child support. The lawyers for Mrs Aly argued, successfully, that it was extremely doubtful that Mr Aly would ever support his ex-wife or their two children again. As such the Judge, Mr Justice Rogers ruled that all the family assets valued at around £550,000 would be transferred to Mrs Aly.

This is an unusual order of the court and is a stark reminder that the distribution of wealth on divorce is subject to judicial discretion. A pill that is undoubtedly hard to swallow for Mr Ally. The opinion amongst lawyers is that this was the right order to make and was fair and just in the circumstances. Emma Hatley, a partner at Stewarts law commented, ‘‘A departure from equality, to the extent of awarding all of the available resources to the wife, is an exceptional outcome, but it is a fair one where the husband was found to have effectively ‘abdicated responsibility’ for her and his children’.

Carmel Brown of Thomas Eggar reiterated this view with her comment, ‘The welfare of the children of the family are of paramount importance, and therefore, albeit a departure from equality, it was wholly necessary for the judge to use his discretion and an make an order in these terms.’

John Nicholson of Irwin Mitchell reflected upon the unusual nature of this order. It is his view that a 100% ruling such as this will not come along everyday. He stated, ‘The court will try to reach a fair result in all circumstances. Here the facts were very extreme. The case demonstrates the flexibility of the family court to protect the interests of a disadvantaged part in the face of a serial defaulter.’

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