XW v XH: The Court of Appeal takes critical steps towards gender equality

In the recent weeks, the Court of Appeal have once again overturned a judge at first instance, and in doing the same making great strides in the re-enforcement of gender equality in the law.

This case concerned a Husband and Wife who married in 2008 and subsequently separated in 2015. They had one child in the marriage, who was unfortunately suffering from a life threatening condition. The Husband was a ‘successful business man’ whereas the wife was the primary carer of the child.

The matrimonial pot was substantial, with the business alone having a realisation value of around £490 million. The wife sought equal division of the same, however the husband was only content on giving her a share that satisfied her ‘needs’

At first instance, Baker J concluded that a departure from the principle of equality was acceptable in this case mainly because the parties had kept their finances during their marriage, and he also drew upon the fact that majority of the matrimonial pot came from the Husbands business. The wife was therefore awarded a mere 29% of the matrimonial assets, a substantial departure from the principle of a 50/50 split.

Such decision however was overturned on appeal, sparking considerable attention from academics and practitioners, and has been seen as the first major decision from the English Courts on this area since White v White in 2000. On appeal the wife received a lump sum of £145 million and the £3.7 million jointly owned property.

Such ruling has been hailed as a ‘critical win for gender equality’ in divorce law. It has provided case law precedent to ensure that financial contributions within a marriage will not be prioritised over domestic contributions, which sparks highlight societies move the patriarchal family ideology.

Such judgement realises that a persons contribution to a marriage and a family is more than being the ‘breadwinner’ and providing financially. The court have recognised the value of spouses who are ‘homemakers’ and how the contribution of such spouses lay the foudnations for such ‘breadwinners’ to go out and provide financially.

At its most basic level, such judgement if nothing else, promotes the principle of democracy and further to this, how everyone should be treated equally before the law.

Our award-winning Private Family team at MSB provides sector-leading service and expertise in financial matters ancillary to divorce and will guide you through the process to achieve your desired outcome.

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