Keeping it in the family and feeding the golden goose
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The former wife of the actor Michael Douglas has been back in the family courts in America this week, trying again to persuade a New York Judge to hear her claim for half of the actor's earnings made from his 2010 film, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
Between 25th and 31st May 2009, the UK will welcome its first ever National Family Week. This is a nationwide week long celebration of the family and is being supported and endorsed by celebrities, media partners and a whole host of government
City slicker Maurice Robson has recently won a 1M cut to the 8M he was ordered to pay to his former wife. His net worth was found to be approximately 20M.
In this big money case after a long marriage where the wealth was inherited by Mr Robson (including a large farm estate), the Court of Appeal provided guidance as to the approach to be taken with inherited assets on divorce. They were also critical of the couple for failing to take care of their assets and living so extravagantly during the marriage.
The court made it clear that inherited assets form part of the property and financial resources of a party and therefore have to be taken into account. How they are treated depends not only on their source, but also their nature: An ancestral castle might deserve different treatment from a farm inherited from a parent who had acquired it during their lifetime; just as a valuable heirloom is of a different character from an inherited portfolio of stocks and shares.
The court confirmed that other factors to be taken into account when considering inherited assets include: the duration of the marriage; the time the wealth had been enjoyed by the parties; their standard of living and whether it was supported by the inheritance; and the way the inheritance was preserved, enhanced or depleted during the marriage.
Mr Robson complained that as a result of the original order, he would need to sell his Oxfordshire estate. However, the court found little sympathy with this argument, commenting that he and his former wife should have tightened their belts years ago. They were criticised for killing the goose that lays the golden eggs by failing to feed her properly, and referred to the estate as the carcass of the golden goose that exemplified their way of life.
This is certainly a salutary lesson to divorcing parties about the lack of sympathy they might receive from the court should they try to argue that their assets, in particular those which have been inherited, ought to be preserved. It is also a useful reminder that just because an asset has been inherited by one divorcing party, it does not mean that it is ringfenced and excluded from consideration by the court. The court has a statutory duty to consider all of a partys resources which includes inherited wealth.
For more information from professional family law solicitors contact Pannone on 0844 980 1428.
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