Let’s Get Ready To Rumble – Financial Remedy Proceedings are underway for Ant McPartlin’s Divorce

The avid readers of celebrity news amongst you may recall the press reporting last month that Ant’s 11 year marriage to his wife, Lisa Armstrong, had been brought to an end “in 30 seconds” by a Judge. Either the regional divorce centres (including Bury St Edmunds) had significantly bucked up their ideas, or this was yet another example of the media perpetuating the myth of the “quickie divorce” in its coverage of decree nisi hearings. What had actually taken place last month in Ant’s divorce proceedings was the pronouncement of decree nisi, whereby a Judge confirmed that Ms Armstrong was entitled to obtain a divorce based on Ant’s admitted adultery.

Ant McPartlin is back in the headlines this week with a rather different kind of bushtucker trial of his own. The financial remedy proceedings are underway, with a preliminary hearing having taken place earlier this week in the Family Division of the High Court. Whilst some in the press focussed on Ant’s failure to attend the hearing (talk about “I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out Of Here!”), spare a thought for the journalists at Closer and Heat magazine who are apparently in desperate need of a “lie down” (their words, not mine) after learning that Ms Armstrong intends to make a claim against Ant’s future earnings, reported to be in the region of £155m.

And so, a question arises: are there any circumstances in which a spouse should be entitled to share in the future income generated by their soon-to-be ex-spouse following separation?

The Courts have had to grapple with this issue before. Remember the case of Parlour v Parlour [2004] EWCA Civ 872, [2004] 3 All ER 921? In that case, the ex-wife of former England and Arsenal player Ray Parlour was awarded maintenance amounting to more than a third of his future income by the Court of Appeal.

In the more recent case of Waggott v Waggott (2018) EWCA Civ 727, the Court of Appeal was presented with a different set of facts and asked to determine two main issues:

  1. Is a party’s earning capacity a matrimonial asset which should be shared on divorce?; and
  2. Should a party be required to use their capital provision to meet their income needs following a divorce?

The key facts of the case are as follows:

  • The husband (H) was 53, the wife (W) was 47. They have one child and lived and lived together from 1991. They married in 2000.
  • The couple separated in 2012.  A final financial order in the divorce was made in September 2016.
  • The Judge ordered a division of capital: £8.4m to W and £7.8m to H. W received additional capital in the form of a share of H’s deferred compensation. The Judge also made a maintenance order giving W £175,000 per year on a joint lives basis (meaning the amount was to be paid until the death of one party, remarriage or further order of the Court). H’s net income was £3m per year.
  • W appealed the Judge’s decision. H cross appealed.

The case of Waggott looks at the relationship between the principles of needs, compensation and sharing. W was seeking a “fair share” of H’s future and post-separation income, arguing that his earning capacity was a matrimonial asset and that the principle of compensation should be applied because she had given up her job early in the marriage, enabling H to focus on his career.

H’s appeal sought a term order for maintenance (for a period of 5 years) on the basis W should use her significant capital award (which was much more than she needed to rehouse herself) towards her income needs.

The Court of Appeal rejected W’s appeal and imposed a term maintenance order for only 3.5 years. In doing so, the Court of Appeal decided categorically that a party’s earning capacity as a future financial resource to the other party is only relevant if it is required to meet what would otherwise be an unmet financial need. W should use her capital award (the part not needed for her housing) to meet her income needs.

Negotiations for financial settlement on divorce and issues relating to maintenance can be complex and you should seek the advice of a specialist family law solicitor. We at Rayden Solicitors recognise that no two families are the same and will guide you through the process to help you reach a financial settlement that is right for you and your family.  If you would like to speak to me or one of our other family law specialists, please contact us.

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