A story about a family with a modest lifestyle but who actually had a multi-million pound fortune has been reported in the media recently. The couple lived in a semi-detached house worth about £225,000 and sent their children to the local state school. None of their household furnishings was worth more than £500 and the couple drove a normal car. However, belying their modest lifestyle was a fortune of £57 million. Many of their family and friends were completely unaware of the family’s wealth.
The extraordinary details of this family’s lifestyle and fortune came to light during the couple’s divorce. The £57 million fortune was inherited by the wife and, consequently, throughout the marriage the couple had no need to generate any earned income. The divorce saw the husband seek £18 million from his wife but, in the end, he was awarded £5 million.
This divorce case took place in England and it is interesting to contrast the outcome of this case with the way in which the Scottish courts would approach it. The division of a couple’s wealth on divorce in Scotland is focussed on the wealth generated during the course of the marriage. Windfalls such as an inheritance are usually excluded from the assets to be divided on divorce. As a result, in this family’s case, as the fortune was an inheritance of the wife, the husband would have struggled to get even £5 million through the Scottish courts.
It is a good demonstration of the differences between English and Scots law of divorce. The couple spent their marriage living together in England and so had little option but to take their divorce through the English courts. However, for couples that split their time between countries the question of which court to take your divorce through is not so clear. In that situation, legal advice should be sought to determine where to raise divorce proceedings.