The general starting point when considering division of matrimonial assets on divorce is an equal division of the assets unless there is good reason to the contrary.
In limited cases where one party to the marriage feels they have made such an extraordinary contribution to the creation of wealth within the marriage that it would be unfair for this not to be recognised on asset division, their contribution could be seen as a ‘stellar contribution’ or ‘special contribution’. If the claim is accepted by the courts, stellar contribution can provide a powerful shield against the argument of assets being shared equally.
What will the courts accept as a stellar contribution?
Raising stellar contribution is not as easy as it may at first sound. A stellar or special contribution requires a spouse to have exhibited exceptional prowess. Each case will depend on its own facts and in practice only cases involving considerable wealth tend to fall within the remit of special contribution.
The following questions are likely to be considered by the court when any claim is made:
- Can it properly be said that the spouse is the generating force behind the fortune, rather than the product itself?
- Does the scale of the wealth depend upon the spouses innovative vision as well as on his ability to develop those visions?
- Has the spouse generated truly vast wealth such that his business success can properly be viewed as exceptional?
- Does the spouse have a special skill and effort which is distinctive to him and which survives as a material consideration despite the partnership or pooling aspect of the marriage?
- Would it, in all the circumstances, be inequitable for that contribution to be disregarded when asset division is considered?
Only if these questions are answered in the affirmative is it likely an adjustment will be considered.
For more information on the division of assets on divorce or stellar contribution, please contact Anita Scorah in our Family Law team on 01625 442123.