UK?s wealthy resent payouts

Published on Jan 31, 2006 02:05 AM IST

Wives of the wealthy have been used to getting the lion's share of their husbands' assets in divorce settlements.

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None | ByVijay Dutt, London

Wives of the wealthy have been used to getting the lion's share of their husbands' assets in divorce settlements. But now, two rich men have gone to the  House of Lords asking for a reduction in the size of the divorce settlement that they were ordered to pay.

The judges will have to decide on the fair division of the assets and the value of a wife's contribution to the marriage. The outcome will be awaited anxiously by other wealthy husbands.

Ken McFarlane, 44, a partner with the accountants Deloitte, is appealing against a £250,000-a-year maintenance awarded to his wife Julia, also 44, and the decision to divide their £3 million assets equally between them. They split after 18 years of marriage.

Alan Miller, a City fund manager, is arguing that the £5 million awarded to his wife Melissa by a High Court judge is unfair, and that his offer of £1.3 million was generous on the basis that she was only entitled to be returned to her former position as a wage earner with a relatively high earning potential.

Miller's QC told the Court of Appeal that it would have cost him far less, at most £2 million, if he had knocked Mrs Miller down with his car and caused her severe injuries, instead of leaving her for another woman. 

At the heart of the McFarlane case is what value the court should set for Mrs MacFarlane's contribution to the marriage by giving up her career to care for their three children.

Lawyers believe the McFarlane settlement will have a huge impact on the length of time for which wives can continue to receive maintenance where there is not enough capital to achieve a clean break on divorce.

Law experts predict that if Mrs McFarlane succeeds, wealthy husbands can expect, after a marriage of 20 years or more, to be paying for the upkeep of their former wives for the rest of their careers.

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