The Court of Appeal has reduced the divorce settlement awarded to a former spouse by £20 million from £45 million to £25 million in the highest reduction seen by the court.


Standish V Standish

Anna and Clive Standish were married for 15 years from 2005 to 2020, during which time they had two children together. Mr Standish, a former UBS CFO turned sheep farming tycoon, entered the marriage with assets of around £57.3 million, while Mrs Standish had much less to her name. The couple’s fortune grew to a substantial £132 million by the time they split.


In the original divorce hearing in 2022, Mrs Standish made a claim for half of the £132 million and was awarded £45 million. In November 2023, she lodged an application to the Court of Appeal to increase this award to £66 million, centring the argument on an £80 million sum that Mr Standish had transferred to his then wife in a bid to avoid a significant inheritance tax bill. The money was supposed to then be put into a trust for the couple’s children, but Mrs Standish filed for divorce before this was done, and claimed the funds were a ‘gift’.


Lord Justice Moylan of the Court of Appeal dismissed Mrs Standish’s claim and instead allowed a counter-appeal from her former husband. Mr Standish’s legal team successfully argued that, as the majority of the couple’s assets were, in fact, accumulated by him prior to the marriage, it should not have been considered in the original award.


The Court of Appeal ultimately reduced the original award to Mrs Standish by £20 million to £25 million, a drop of 45% and the highest reduction made by the court. The High Court Family Division is currently assessing whether £25 million will be sufficient for her needs to be covered.


The Sharing Principle: Considering pre-marital assets in divorce

A major consideration in the Court of Appeal’s decision was the application of the ‘sharing principle’ in the initial 2022 award and the £80 million transferred to Mrs Standish intended to be put into trust.


The ‘sharing principle’ is the starting point for all financial awards in divorce and proposes that the matrimonial assets should be split equally between parties, unless there is a reason not to, and that spouses – who are equal partners – should share "the fruits of the matrimonial partnership" 50:50. However, for spouses who entered the marriage with significant personal wealth or assets of their own should not necessarily have these considered as part of the divorce settlement, as Mrs Standish was arguing.


In Standish v Standish they key issue was what exactly was included in the couple’s ‘matrimonial assets’ and, ultimately, it was concluded that the 2022 judge’s “application of the sharing principle was flawed and has resulted in an unjustified division of the family’s wealth in the wife’s favour” resulting in the considerable reduction in her award.


Protecting your assets pre- and post-marriage

For spouses entering a marriage with a significant personal assets, a pre-nuptial agreement can be an effective way to protect that wealth should the worst happen. Prenups are becoming a much more common 'pre-wedding' conversation between engaged couples and are being viewed as less ‘cynical’ and more practical, in a similar way to insurance; write it and have it on hand in the hope you don’t need to use it.


Entering into marriage with the knowledge that hard-earned assets and business interests have been accounted for in the worst-case scenario means that couples can have peace of mind and start looking forward to the best case.

Should the marriage break down without a pre-nup in place and you are worried seeking the advice of an experienced family and matrimonial solicitor can pay off significantly. In order to avoid complicated legal proceedings after your divorce is finalised, it is important to formalise all financial agreements with a financial settlement order. An experienced family law solicitor will be able to discuss the best option for your circumstances and ensure that you receive the best overall outcome for you and your financial future.


Get in touch

With our experience and expertise, our Family Law team led by Partner Rebecca Cresswell, aims to achieve the best outcome in your circumstances, ensuring you have provision for the future or protecting what you have built up over the years.


To speak to a member of the team about your situation, get in touch for a free 30-minute consultation by emailing or calling 0345 900 5401.


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