Should family wealth be taken in to account in divorce proceedings?

08 August 2017

The Court of Appeal in England is to give judgement in an interesting case on whether the wealth of the divorcing wife’s father should be taken in to consideration when determining appropriate division of assets upon the breakdown of the parties’ marriage.

Should family wealth be taken in to account in divorce proceedings?

Hossam Radwan, a former banker, and his wife Hayat Alireza, daughter of an extremely wealth Saudia Arabian businessman, were married for 14 years and have 3 children together.  Their relationship sadly broke down in 2013 and the division of their assets was a matter of dispute before the Family Courts in England.  Mr Radwan was ordered to pay his ex wife a lump sum of £2 million, intended to give her an income for 14 years,as well as allow her the right to remain in their former matrimonial home on foot of their divorce. 

Ms Alireza brought an appeal against that decision on the basis that the award to her was too low, principally because it was reduced by the Judge at first instance on the basis that she is likely to inherit a fortune of potentially £100m when her father dies.  Ms Alireza contends that it is unfair that her elderly father should be expected to look after her, her barrister arguing that ‘there is no principle of law that a wife should become the responsibility of her birth family upon divorce’ and that it was wrong of the Judge to take in to account the wealth of her businessman father when determining division of the matrimonial pot.  Miss Alireza says her father, who is in his 70s and who is part of one of Saudi Arabia’s oldest business dynasties could live for decades, that she is entitled to ‘security and stability’ in her own right, and that currently she would have ‘nothing to fall back on’ after 14 years, when the lump sum she was awarded would run out, apart from her father’s generosity.

On behalf of the husband, Richard Todd QC contested that although the husband may himself be rich, he is ‘much, much poorer’ than his ex wife’s family, and that despite being repeatedly asked to do so, Miss Alireza had failed to disclose the likely size of the inheritance that she will receive from her father.  Referring to Mr Alireza’s father, Mr Todd said: “There is no question of any pressure being placed upon him (to help her out financially). This is what he already is doing and, quite independently from the proceedings, will continue to do. The reality remains that her father is a real financial resource both now and in the future.”

Lady Justice Gloster, Lord Justice Lewison and Lady Justice King, who heard the appeal, will rule at a later date.  The outcome is awaited with interest as, although the facts of this particular case are uncommon, the principles of such arguments about whether family wealth or future inheritance should be taken in to account in cases where finances require to be resolved upon a marriage breakdown, frequently crop up. 

Clare Curran is Partner in Charge of the Family Law Department at Worthingtons Solicitors and can be contacted on clare@worthingtonslaw.co.uk or telephone 028 91811538 to confidentially discuss any query of a family law nature.

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