This judgment is significant in the law of financial remedy proceedings as it undertakes a thorough analysis of the precedent establishing the sharing principle and reinforces that this principle underpins the law when considering the division of a marital assets. However, the most significant impact of this decision is that the Court of Appeal has provided some guidance for cases which merit a departure from equal division, notably where there are two bread-winners in a childless marriage. This is important as there will be more and more cases coming before the courts where there are two bread winners as it becomes more common for women to be financially independent and to remain in employment after marriage.
McFarlane LJ allowed Mrs Sharp’s appeal and Mr Sharp was awarded £1.3 million (half of the two properties) plus an additional amount of £700,000 to account for three factors: (a) the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage; (b) the need for a modest capital fund in order to live in the property that he is to retain; and (c) some share in the assets held by the wife.
This judgment should not be seen as a radical move away from the established sharing principle, but as providing additional guidance in situations which require a departure from this in order to achieve fairness, which is the overarching principle upon which all of our law sits. Lord Justice McFarlane echoed this in concluding his judgment:
“Mr Feehan is therefore right that the combination of potentially relevant factors (short marriage, no children, dual incomes and separate finances) is sufficient to justify a departure from the equal sharing principle in order to achieve overall fairness between these parties.”