UK Divorce’s Large Settlement Sparks Conversation on Asset Accrual, Privacy

  • Billionaires in the United Kingdom divorce, and the wife receives one of the largest recorded settlements in UK history.
  • This divorce sparked conversations regarding asset accrual, privacy.
  • Many wonder if wealth equates to public recognition, that could give the public the right to details regarding a couple's divorce.

Given what many individuals have to go through during their divorce settlement, in terms of sorting through various assets and determining if they are communal property or assets that were acquired during the course of the marriage, it is not entirely surprising that those who have a lot of assets to sort through would need to settle the issue in court.

Like with any settlement, knowing the value of the assets is important. Whether it is a vehicle, a business, or a painting, knowing its monetary value can help your lawyer with concrete figures provided by appraisers who can make those types of determinations. While finding someone who can provide these appraisals and values can be expensive, it’s too important for your financial future to not make that type of investment, especially if you can afford to do so.

The background

Recently, there is a couple in the United Kingdom, whose divorce settlement has sparked an international discussion on asset evaluation and how it affects the divorce process. According to the BBC, the divorce payment of an unnamed 61-year-old former oil and gas trader to his 41-year-old ex-wife is being depicted as one of the largest awards of marital assets by a UK court.

The couple was married in Moscow, Russia before moving to Surrey. Justice Haddon-Cave’s ruling awarded the woman 41.5 percent of the total marital assets, which translates into the Russian billionaire paying her £453 million. This translates to $583,226,175.

‘Contribution of wealth’

Part of the argument that the husband was attempting to make in court was based around his contribution of wealth. He told the court that he sold shares in a Russian company for $1.3 billion (£1bn) approximately five years ago, according to the BBC. He also claims that that he helped provide for the couple’s two sons by buying them flats in a luxury London development, one of the flats for £29 million and the other for £7 million.

The judge said that the wife’s role as a mother and a housewife helped their financial futures, concluding that they had made equal contributions to the welfare of the family. The husband had initially argued that he was wealthy before they were married, but after the wife had claimed that the net wealth built up during the course of the marriage was a little over £1 billion, he no longer contested the case.

‘Subsisting marriage’

Part of the confusion that surrounds this case in particular is how the couple treated each other during some of their marital struggles. They still went on vacation together, shared a bank account, and slept with one another. He gave her unrestricted access to his helicopter, plane, two credit cards, and yacht.

This is part of the reason that the judge described their marriage as “subsisting.” Both the husband and wife have accused each other of having multiple affairs and the man even had a child with another woman in 2013, according to The Guardian.

Another issue stems from specifics within their finances. The wife claimed that she needed £39.27 million to buy a house in England, on top of needing £27.89 million to buy property abroad and £5.36 million a year to live on. The wife also was active in renovating their holiday home in France, as well as their dream house in the Caucasus. She also was involved in purchasing art for their collection that was valued at $112 million and built up during the course of their marriage.

Wealth and privacy

The financial stakes of this marriage have raised several interesting thoughts within the legal circles. When two foreign billionaires have been married for 20 years seek divorce in the country that they are currently living in, how much is the public allowed to know about it? Just because two individuals are financially wealthy, does that put them in the public eye enough that the public has a right to know the details of their divorce?

Many individuals, including former parliament member John Hemming have spoken out about the expansion of transparency in family law courts and how secrecy undermines the fundamental underlying principle of open justice in British courts.

Public or private occurrence

Transparency is important during the course of a divorce case. Hiding assets can land you in legal trouble, damage your credibility, and can often damage the rest of your divorce case. However, this speaks to transparency within the court case among the necessary people involved. This speaks to the couple divorcing, the lawyers, the judge, and any other persons needed to render a fair and complete decision.

This does not necessarily speak to the growing public. Celebrities like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Michelle Kwan, and Janet Jackson have had their divorces looked at under microscopes recently, but they have all created a public image based around a consumable medium, whether that is film, sports, or music. Whereas, the couple in England is only in news headlines because of their wealth and how it has impacted their experiences in divorce court.

While marital assets can often inspire public conflict, the end result was the reason in this instance why it wended up becoming a public situation. The assets were divided, sparking interest in the amount. For those going through a divorce, it can be difficult enough knowing that half of your assets are gone, without it being announced to the world. During a time when so much is being divided, it’s always a challenge, whether you make minimum wage or millions.

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