Balancing Needs in a Difficult Financial Settlement or the best way to predict the future is to create it (fairly)
The Court had to decide in a difficult case (VT v LT  EWFC 256 (18 December 2023) ) where it had to create two households out of a limited matrimonial asset pot after a long relationship and three children.
This case involved a married couple separating after 18 years and the parties separated in March 2020. There are three children of the family and one lives independently. leaving the court to grapple with dividing limited assets to create two independent households. Both parties needed three-bedroom properties, with the husband requiring additional space for his home-based business.
- Competing Proposals: The wife sought the sale of the house and a lump sum to purchase shared ownership, while the husband proposed keeping the house and paying a smaller lump sum.
- Disparity in Resources: The husband had higher earnings from his IT company , run from the family home (ca. £44.5k inclusive of dividends) and mortgage raising capacity, but also carried the majority of the agreed matrimonial debt. W earned £29k p.a. (inclusive £16k universal credit)
- Balancing Fairness: The court acknowledged the need for a departure from equal division due to the Section 25 factors favouring the husband, but still preferred the wife to address her lack of secure housing.
- The husband retained the house but with a larger lump sum obligation to the wife (£55,000: two tranches £20k at the date of hearing – further within 24 months) compared to his initial offer, if he wishes to keep the former matrimonial home.
- Failure to pay the full sum within 24 months would trigger the sale of the house and a 55/45 equity split which would enable W to explore shared ownership options.
- The husband remained responsible for the existing matrimonial debt.
- 50% of the husband’s pension’s CET value was transferred to the wife to promote income equality in retirement.
- A clean break order was issued.
- This case highlights the challenges of achieving fairness in financial settlements when resources are limited and needs differ.
- The court considered all Section 25 factors and individual circumstances to reach a solution that addressed the wife’s vulnerability without unfairly disadvantaging the husband.
- Early settlement through negotiation could have avoided delays and additional costs associated with the late change in mortgage raising capacity evidence.
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