London - A City trader is calling for an end to 50/50 divorce payouts after her cheating ex-husband was awarded almost £3million of her money.
Julie Arnold said Robin Sharp had ‘won the lottery’ when the High Court granted him half their £5.45million (R9.1 million) fortune, even though the couple kept their finances separate throughout their relationship.
Miss Arnold, 44, amassed £10.5million in bonuses during their four-year marriage on top of her £135 000 salary, while her husband earned £90 000 a year as an IT consultant.
After another court battle, judges cut Mr Sharp’s settlement from £2.7million to their £1.1million home and a £900,000 lump sum. Experts called it a groundbreaking move away from the convention that assets are halved.
The couple, who do not have any children, decided to divorce when Miss Arnold found her husband, 43, had been unfaithful, and the High Court initially split their fortune down the middle. Miss Arnold, from Shurdington near Cheltenham, said: ‘It was still a lottery win, just for being with someone.
‘If we’d stayed married, we would still have kept our finances separate and he would not have had his £2million. The fact that it took four years was just a further punishment for me, who had done nothing wrong.’ She fought the decision at the Court of Appeal, arguing the ruling was unfair given her much larger contribution to their finances.
Miss Arnold said: ‘I was really disillusioned with the whole process. I really believed in the legal system and assumed justice would be served. I considered my appeal very carefully – it was a difficult few years – but I wanted a fair outcome.
‘All of this uncertainty puts people off getting married.’
Miss Arnold believes divorce law should be changed as more professional couples marry later in life and do not have children.
She wants simplified pre- nuptial agreements that force couples to discuss their finances, avoiding lengthy court battles. She told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘Our life is different now and there will be more and more couples who divorce after shorter marriages before they have children.’
Her case comes after former High Court judge Sir Paul Coleridge described divorce legislation as ‘rickety and out of date’.
He said: ‘We cannot simply shut our eyes to the family chaos that has arisen in society since the Eighties. Continuing to sit on our hands shows no sign of working.’
Lord Justice McFarlane said Miss Arnold’s case had ‘triggered a plain exception’ to the principle of splitting assets in half. He said: ‘The bulk, indeed effectively all, of the property has been generated by the wife.
‘Short marriage, no children, dual incomes and separate finances are sufficient to justify a departure from the equal sharing principle to achieve fairness between these parties.’
Divorce lawyer Alex Carruthers, of Hughes Fowler Carruthers, said Miss Arnold’s case had ‘muddied the waters’.
* More than a tenth of married couples say they could split up this year because of money worries, a poll found. Some 22 per cent have considered ending relationships, according to law firm Slater and Gordon’s survey of 2,093, with 12 per cent blaming financial pressures.