Court of Appeal ruling seems to add a further potential point of contention into divorce proceedings

The ruling earlier this week in the Court of Appeal in the case of  Julie Therese Sharp v Robin Duncan Sharp is causing widespread debate among family and divorce lawyers.

In short, the Court of Appeal ruled that the combination of potentially relevant factors - a short marriage, no children, dual incomes and separate finances - was sufficient to justify departing from the equal sharing principle to achieve overall fairness between the two parties.

The High Court, in November 2015, awarded Robin Sharp £2.7m, which represented half of the total matrimonial assets. Julie Sharp argued that her ex-husband should receive only £1.3m, given that she had contributed the bulk of the combined assets.

The Court of Appeal ruled that Robin Sharp should be awarded £2m. In the judgment Lord Justice McFarlane said that Mrs Sharp received bonuses 'way beyond the level of her previous earnings purely as a result of her employment and...without any contribution, either domestic or business, from her husband'.

The case seems to highlight that, particularly in shorter marriages, fairness and meeting the needs of spouses after they divorce is becoming more important than the traditional principle of the equal sharing of assets. The problem though is that there is no legal definition of a “short” or “long” marriage and therefore no defined point after which wealth generated should be shared equally. The judgement therefore seems to serve to add a further potential point of contention into divorce proceedings.

It also further reinforces the potential benefit of entering into a pre-nuptial agreement in cases where the relative contributions of two working partners are widely at variance.

Commenting on the case, Steve Johnston the Head of Family law at Judge  & Priestley said: “This case confirms that in a relatively short and childless marriage the court is likely to consider fairness means focusing on the parties’ respective contributions during the marriage. It is a rare marriage indeed where both parties earn astronomically more than either of them needs (the wife bought the husband three Aston Martins in this case), but the general principle that flows down to the most humble is that in a short marriage it will be unfair to ignore the fact that one has put in so much more than the other, and the fair outcome is one that reflects those unequal contributions. The Court also notes that the wary would have considered a pre-nuptial agreement.”


If you have any enquires regarding this topic please contact Steve Johnston on 020 8290 0333 or email

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