12 October 2017
Appeal concerning the applicant’s housing needs: a life interest versus capital provision
- W appealed a final order for financial remedies (the ‘2016 order’).
- W and H were dual nationals of the UK and Saudi Arabia. Both parties came from very wealthy families. H had a substantial interest in his family’s fortune under a ‘family arrangement’. W had an extremely wealthy father (then aged 71) and a strict entitlement to a share of his prospective inheritance under Saudi Arabia’s forced heirship laws.
- The parties had been married for 14 years and had three children, one of whom had special needs.
- In or around 2000, H purchased two flats in South Kensington, one of which was occupied by the family (‘FMH’), while the other was used by the domestic staff (‘the staff flat’).
- The 2016 order gave W a time-limited right to occupy both the FMH and the staff flat. W’s interest in the FMH was to expire upon either her remarriage or the death of her father, whichever the sooner; her interest in the staff flat was to expire after three years.
- W appealed. W contended that the judge was wrong to have taken her future inheritance into account in such a manner, and instead should have required H to pay her a lump sum so that she could buy a property outright.
- W’s appeal was successful.
- By reason of the certainty of W’s prospective inheritance, it amounted to a financial resource which W is likely to have in the foreseeable future.
- However, W’s father’s wealth was not a separate, current resource which might otherwise justify ‘judicious encouragement’ (per Thomas v Thomas).
- The fact that W’s father had previously assisted W and the children financially did not mean that he had accepted long term financial responsibility in this regard.
- The learned judge had fallen into error in focusing too greatly on a desire to respect the integrity of H’s family arrangement. In so doing, the judge had overlooked the very substantial liquid funds available to H.
- Greater weight ought to have been attributed to: W’s personal autonomy; W’s continued contribution to the welfare of the family, and; the likelihood of family conflict in implementing the terms of the 2016 order.