Litigation Recent Decisions 14/10/97

Unequal distribution of proceeds of house sale

Marshall v Beckett (1997)

Court: CA (Nourse LJ, Hutchison LJ, Thorpe LJ) 2/10/9Appearances: Christina Morris for the appellant. Ann Hussey for the respondent.

Summary: Appeal against order granting appellant husband unequal share of the proceeds of sale of the former matrimonial home, it being claimed that the judge had disregarded the contributions he had made and put too much emphasis on the wife's proposed requirements.

Appeal against an order of Judge Johnson by which the appellant husband was to transfer his interest in the former matrimonial home to the petitioner. The former matrimonial home was to be sold and the respondent wife was to pay the husband £40,000. The parties married in 1986 and had two children. The parties lived firstly at Blenheim Crescent, which was bought for £90,000, both parties contributing £30,000 each, the remainder being a mortgage which was later redeemed by the wife from her inheritance. The husband spent a further £28,000 on improving the property, although the wife claimed his contribution was in the region of £20-22,000. They subsequently moved to 113 Chesterton Road, which was bought for £235,000, made up of £160,000 from the sale of their former home, a £45,000 mortgage and £15,000 each from the parties. At the time of the appeal the house was worth £385,000 and it was agreed that after the discharge of the mortgage and the costs of a sale it would be worth £334,225. The issue to be decided was how the sum should be divided between the parties giving due weight to the criteria set out in s.25 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and the parties' housing needs. The husband argued that he should receive £120,000 to enable him to discharge debts of £40,000 and to rehouse himself. The wife argued that she should receive £295,000 to complete the purchase on a property at All Saints Road worth £210,000, to pay for removal and improvement costs and to discharge her debts. There was not enough money to satisfy both parties. The judge however gave the wife 100 per cent of what she sought and reduced the husband's figure to £40,000, representing 12 per cent of the available liquid capital. The judge was critical of the husband in proceedings under the Children Act 1989 and, on the basis of his criticism, concluded that the costs of the litigation ought to be borne by the husband. The husband submitted that the judge (i) failed to refer to the subsequent investment that the husband made to improve the Blenheim Crescent property and had been wrong to conclude that the wife was the major financial contributor; (ii) gave undue priority to the wife's desire to purchase the All Saints Road property; (iii) was wrong to deal with the costs issue in the way he did.