Mishcon and 1 Hare Court secure £8m settlement in divorce appeal

The Court of Appeal (CoA) has ordered an oil technology millionaire to raise his divorce settlement payout from £5.4m to £8m.

Mishcon de Reya instructed 1 Hare Court’s  Martin Pointer QC to represent Victoria Jones in her bid to raise the ancillary relief award.

The husband, Gareth Jones, was represented by QEB Chambers’ Lucy Stone QC, who was instructed by specialist family boutique Levison Meltzer Pigott .

The CoA panel of three, chaired by family division president Sir Nicholas Wall, was asked to consider raising the settlement to £10m.

A key consideration of the case was the value of a business set up by Mr Jones prior to the couple’s 1996 marriage and sold in 2007. First instance judge Mr Justice Charles found that £15m of the sale price should be ringfenced as the value of the business at the time the husband brought it into the marriage.

Mrs Jones was therefore awarded a divorce settlement of £5m, which was 50 per cent of the growth in the business’s value over the lifetime of the marriage. This amounted to approximately 20 per cent of the total business assets. 

In the CoA Pointer argued that the first instance judge had undervalued the assets accrued in the marriage and  as a consequence, the settlement should be increased to £10m.

In a judgment that was highly critical of the first instance decision for being “too long, too discursive and too unwieldy”, Sir Nicholas said the valuation of the business at the start of the marriage should be lowered to £9m. This meant the   amount accrued in the duration of the 10-year union was in fact higher and, therefore, the settlement should be increased.

The CoA agreed with Pointer but, because it lowered the starting value of the business, Mrs Jones’s settlement was raised to £8m rather than £10m.

Withers family solicitor Katharine Landells said: “The wife in this case got an almost 50 per cent uplift in her award on appeal and benefited from the huge discretion that the family courts have when making awards.  

“There’s a silver lining for wealthy husbands as this case makes it clear that, provided there’s enough money to meet the parties’ needs, assets brought to a marriage can be ringfenced and not be shared on divorce.”