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Court of Appeal Decision In Hart v Hart

The Court of Appeal Denies Wife Of 23 years An Equal Share


A woman whose Husband was found to have presented incomplete and misleading information during their divorce has been denied an equal share of their assets.

Karen Hart had been in the relationship with John Hart, a wealthy Midlands property developer for 23 years when they first separated in 2006.  During the course of their marriage they raised two children and together amassed a considerable fortune. 

At the High Court in 2015 Mrs Hart was given a limited settlement because despite Mr Hart claiming he bought significant wealth into the relationship, he failed to set out his case and the Judge said he was unable to determine which assets were from the marriage and how much wealth had been jointly built up.

Mrs Hart argued that this was unfair and instructed specialist family and divorce lawyers at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth to challenge the settlement in the Court of Appeal.

The hearing took place in May at the Royal Courts of Justice.  Today (31st August 2017) the Judgment was handed down.

The Court of Appeal have dismissed Mrs Hart’s appeal saying that despite the shortcomings of Mr Hart’s approach, the Trial Judge was entitled to deny Mrs Hart’s claim to share in the wealth they had created and instead to limit her claim to what he felt she needed.

Expert Opinion
“Mrs Hart has always sought a fair settlement on established principles that reflect the length of her marriage and her contribution to it.

“She has behaved in an exemplary fashion in conducting the proceedings which were extraordinarily difficult, lengthy and costly due to the lack of information from Mr Hart.

“It is disappointing that the Court has once again erred in the favour of Mr Hart. Given that the couple were married for 23 years, the settlement should have been based on an equal sharing of the assets they created between them during this time. Any difficulty in separating the matrimonial assets from the non-matrimonial in this case is entirely the result of Mr Hart’s refusal to provide relevant information which was available to him.

“It appears unfair that in these circumstances that it is Mrs Hart who must bear the consequences, and surprising that the Court of Appeal has now endorsed this unfairness.

“For nearly 20 years it has been settled principle that divorcing spouses should share equally in the fruits of their matrimonial partnership. Mr Hart frustrated that enquiry by his refusal to provide relevant information, and has been allowed to reap the benefits. Mrs Hart maintains that this is unfair and sets a dangerous precedent.

“The decision of the Court of Appeal leaves the law in a state of flux; it allows a Trial Judge to find that even where it is not properly evidenced, the financial contribution of one spouse outweighs the family and domestic contribution of the other. This can lead to a result that is unfair and discriminatory, as it has done in this case. More such results are likely to follow, with the potential to set the law back more than 20 years.”
Nicola Walker, Partner

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