Winner takes it all
Recent headlines were grabbed by Enas Aly, a wife who recently received an award for 100% of an asset base of £550,000 confirmed by the Court of Appeal.
The couple married in 2002 and had two children. They separated in 2011 when the husband, an anaesthetist, left the wife and moved to Bahrain. Since 2012 he failed to pay any child maintenance or spousal support.
Mrs Aly originally complained to the court in Birmingham that, having had no support from her husband since they separated and no prospect of any support in future, she sought an award of the entire capital assets.
The Judge agreed with her and awarded the asset base to her. Dr Aly, feeling aggrieved, appealed. His barrister submitted it was unfair to award the wife 100% of the assets and the court had a duty to consider the husband's needs.
The Court of Appeal disagreed, and described Dr Aly as a “serial defaulter”. The original Judge had little choice other than to make the award he did, which was upheld.
The award has been described as an “extraordinary departure from equality”.
The roguish behaviour of the husband, and an award of the entire asset base to one party, are both naturally headline grabbing, but does this case change anything?
In short, no.
Judges are empowered to rearrange assets on divorce as they see fit. This case reveals that far from an exact, straight down the middle split, an outright award of everything to one party can happen in extreme circumstances. Equality is the starting point, but not the finish line. Each case turns on its own facts, and those facts may justify departing from equality.
In Dr Aly’s case, his conduct was felt sufficient to move as far as is possible from equality. While doubtless exceptional, this case does not set any kind of precedent.
It is though a reminder that those who evade their responsibilities to provide support to their estranged family cannot expect a court to be sympathetic to them. They may find themselves faced with an award much less generous than they might otherwise expect to receive.
You can also find out more information on the family pages of our website on all of these options. The family team at Whitehead Monckton have a wealth of experience providing guidance and advice in all areas relating to separation or divorce. If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this article, please do not hesitate to contact us today.