The Courts decide that, after 17 years, the law has changed and assets no longer have to be shared equally after a short marriage

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In one of the most significant divorce cases to come before the courts for a number of years, couples who divorce after short marriages with no children cannot now expect an equal share of marital assets after a ruling by the Court of Appeal in the case of Sharp v Sharp.

The judges said that Mr Sharp could not claim half of his ex-wife Julie’s fortune after their four-year, childless marriage and they reduced his award by £725,000. The judges in the Court of Appeal in London ruled that Mr Sharp should only have a £2 million share of the £5.45 million family assets.

Lord Justice McFarlane said the facts of the case “triggered a plain exception” to the 50-50 sharing principle. “The bulk, indeed effectively all, of the property has been generated by the wife”.
Lord Justice McFarlane stated: “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.”

Ever since the case of White v White in 2000 (which introduced the aim of dividing assets equally on divorce unless there is a good reason not to) it has been accepted that the fact that a marriage is short is not a reason to refuse to share the assets equally.

Richard Crallan commented that this has always seemed very unfair to most family lawyers and had encouraged “gold-diggers” to marry wealthy people and then divorce them in the London courts after a short period of time.

The couple married in June 2009, Lord Justice McFarlane said. “By at least February 2013, the husband had started a clandestine affair,” he added. Mr Sharp denied being unfaithful right up until 2015 when he was questioned in court during the divorce case. The couple, both from modest financial backgrounds, met when she was working as a coal industry specialist in Swindon. She was earning £135,000 yearly, before bonuses, while her husband, who at one time worked for Cisco, brought in £90,000.

Her career was very successful and her salary and bonuses increased rapidly. Mrs Sharp, 44, gave husband (43) expensive gifts, including an Aston Martin. She petitioned for divorce in December 2013 after discovering the affair. In November 2015, the divorce judge Sir Peter Singer awarded Mr Sharp capital of £2,725,000. Mrs Sharp appealed. Yesterday Mr Sharp was granted a settlement of a £1.1 million house and a £900,000 lump sum.

Richard Crallan pointed out that the case raises the question: how long does a marriage have to be to be “short”. Before the case of White v White in 2000 the answer was 5 years or less.


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