K J Smith Solicitors

If you sacrifice your career, do you sacrifice your future financial security?

Published: 16 October 2014

The starting point for the division of assets on divorce is one of equal division.  That said, the law states that there are a number of factors that allow departure from equality.  These factors are set out in Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

In a Court of Appeal case being heard this week, Mrs Julia Hammans sought an additional £2.2m following Mr Justice Coleridge’s decision in the High Court in March this year, which she claims failed to compensate her sufficiently for her career sacrifice. 

Mrs Hammans, 55, separated from her husband after 21 years of marriage in 2004.  Her share of the settlement included her retaining the former family home in London worth £1.75m.  In March, Mrs Hammans sought a further £2.6m to enable her to stay living in the property.  She was awarded a mere £400,000 additional payment.  Mr Justice Coleridge ruled she needed £80,000 a year to live off and she could easily generate such a sum for herself from interest on her £1m savings pot and by moving home.

Mrs Hammans appeal rests on the fact that when she met her ex husband and they married in 1983, she was a chartered accountant and the Finance Director of the Dickins and Jones Group, now House of Fraser, with a seat on the board and earning the same as her ex husband, also a chartered accountant. 

As many wives do, Mrs Hammans gave up work when she became pregnant in 1989 with their first child.  The couple went on to have another child.  Both children are now grown up.  During the marriage she was the stay at home mum, whilst Mr Hammans continued with his career.

Faced now with the prospect of having to sell her home to finance her future, Mrs Hammans is upset at having given up a well paid lucrative career to support her family, a joint decision with her then husband that she now feels is penalising her and putting her retention of the family home in jeopardy. 

This is in complete contrast to Mr Hammans fortunes which, having forged a career as partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, have continued to grow with him earning £800,000 last year.  He has remarried and has two further children and resides in a property worth £1.5m in the same West London area as the former family home.  He also owns a holiday home in Paris.

Lord Justice Ryder sitting in the Court of Appeal has identified the question "when deciding what is fair, is it inappropriate to look at the consequences of giving up one’s career?"

Mr Hamman’s barrister claims Mrs Hammans has "been treated fairly and properly".  He tried to convince the Court of Appeal judges that Mr Justice Coleridge took account of her loss of career and earnings when valuing her need at £80,000 per annum.

The Court of Appeal judges are considering their decision and their ruling will be handed down at a later date.

The question Mrs Hammans will have to wait for an answer to is possibly best set out by The Clash in their 1981 hit single, "Should I Stay or Should I Go?"...

If you are thinking about divorce or separation then K J Smith Solicitors can help. Our team of divorce experts have many years of experience in dealing with a range of divorce and separation issues, from the straightforward to the highly complex. For more information, contact us today to arrange your free consultation on 01491 630000 (Henley-on-Thames), 020 7070 0330 (Central London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor) or 01256 584000 (Basingstoke).

This article was written by Suzanne Foster.

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