When is one party’s contribution to the marital assets 'special' enough to affect a divorce settlement?

A ruling from the Court of Appeal in the complex case of Work v Gray confirms that a ‘special contribution’ has to be very special indeed.

A ruling from the Court of Appeal in the complex case of Work v Gray confirms that a 'special contribution' has to be very special indeed.

During divorce proceedings, the husband, Mr Work tried to argue that his contribution to the marriage – due to his success whilst employed by a private equity firm – entitled him to receive a greater share of the family assets. His wife’s case was that the assets should be divided equally.

The trial judge ruled that Mr Work's contribution should not be considered special; whilst he had been very successful in his job there was no evidence that his job could not have been performed by another employee.

The case then went to the Court of Appeal and judgment was handed down in April 2017.

The Court decided that in determining 'special contribution', fairness had to be considered and there was a need to ensure there was no discrimination between the husband and wife in their respective roles. Parties should not apply for 'special contribution' unless a contribution was so marked that it would be inequitable to disregard it. In this case, there was no justification for an unequal division of wealth in the husband's favour.

The Court of Appeal said that 'special contribution' as currently applied is potentially relevant only in a very small number of cases. 'special contribution' is currently a very narrow concept and is likely to remain that way. If you would like to discuss further, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our family law team.

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