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Shuttleworth v Shuttleworth [2005] EWCA Civ 1769

Application for permission for second appeal in ancillary relief case refused.

Shuttleworth v Shuttleworth [2005] EWCA Civ 1769

Court of Appeal: Thorpe and Scott Baker LJJ (14 December 2005)

Application for permission for second appeal in ancillary relief case refused.

This case concerned a long-running financial dispute between the parties following divorce. In May 2004, the district judge had divided the available capital between the husband and wife in the ratio 45:55, that preference being intended to reflect the degree to which the available assets had been enhanced by the wife's greater inheritance during the course of the marriage. On the husband's appeal to the Family Division, the judge ruled in favour of the husband and adopted an equal division of the assets.

The wife appealed against the ruling of equality on a number of grounds, asserting that: (1) the judge had misdirected herself in law by stating that a judge should only depart from equality where good reasons exist, 'and then only in exceptional circumstances, which the court should be slow to recognise'; and (2) the judge had no basis for interfering with the discretionary decision of the district judge when she said that 'the learned DJ was wrong and plainly wrong in the exercise of her discretion'.

Since this was a second appeal, the wife also needed to demonstrate, for the purposes of section 55 of the Administration Act 1999, that there was an important point of principle or practice or some other compelling reason why permission should be granted. It was submitted that the treatment of inherited assets in the determination of ancillary relief claims and in the application of section 25(2) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 needed to be explored and settled by the Court of Appeal.

Held, refusing permission to appeal, that the case did not come close to satisfying the requirements of section 55.

The court said that, if this had been a first appeal, permission might have been granted on the basis of ground (1) above, since the judge had overstated the effect of the authorities; as to ground (2), the court did not consider that the judge was suggesting that the district judge had exceeded the generous ambit of discretion, and therefore the judge's intervention had been legitimate. On balance, the judgment in the court below had explained clearly why the judge decided as she did, and had described the marriage as a joint enterprise in every way.

As far as the requirements to be satisfied on a second appeal were concerned, the case contained some factual areas that were not self-evident or free from contentious argument; furthermore, it was not a case that was dominated by the inheritance characteristic.

Accordingly, the case did not represent an appropriate vehicle for a review of this area of the law.

Read the full text of the judgment here