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WX v HX (Treatment of Matrimonial and Non-Matrimonial Property) [2021] EWHC 241 (Fam) (10 February 2021)

Application for a financial remedy order in a 33-year marriage, involving the identification of matrimonial and non-matrimonial property.

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This case concerned an application by the wife, WX, for a financial remedy order against her husband, HX. Their two adult daughters acted as intervenors, as they were partial beneficiaries of trusts that were being considered as part of the estate. The wealth available for distribution was somewhere between £50 million (on HX's case) and £60 million (on WX's case). There was an additional sum of approximately US$50 million held in an offshore trust, for which the children were the principal beneficiaries and which was initially included in WX's claim; however, she later accepted that those funds were no longer "resources" to which HX had access and they were therefore excluded from the dispositive powers of the court.

HX offered to transfer to WX his 50% interest in a jointly owned family home in London which had an agreed gross (mortgage-free) value of £13.75 million, therefore leaving each party with roughly half of their combined wealth (on his £50 million estimate). WX sought the family home and an additional cash sum of £10 million, to be paid from HX's personal offshore assets. Her proposal was made on the basis that her non-matrimonial inherited wealth of approximately £14 million net, which was managed by HX during the marriage, was ring-fenced and should be retained intact by her at the conclusion of the proceedings.

As a preliminary point, Mrs Justice Roberts held that she was proceeding on the valuation date identified in an earlier case management order and would not allow the husband to rely updated valuations [38]. She then went on to consider the computation of the various assets [94; 145], and to establish which assets fell into the rubric of pre-marital/non-matrimonial assets. In respect of the latter, the Judge set out the established principles in relation to sharing in the context of matrimonial and non-matrimonial property [113-116] and held that WX's non-matrimonial property had throughout the marriage been preserved as her own separate property and had not acquired a matrimonial character, either in whole or in part, as a result of HX's activities as investment manager. Mrs Justice Roberts rejected the submission that HX's contribution operated to "matrimonialise" WX's separate property, noting that both HX and WX made "an equal and significant contribution to their marriage" [141].

Having categorised the assets and computed their value, the Judge held that HX's needs were met in full and therefore WX should be entitled to the full value of her share in the matrimonial assets, namely the house in London and a lump sum of £6,362,445, to be paid offshore to limit the tax liabilities [162]. The chattels were divided according to a previous agreement and both parties shared equally the responsibility for providing a pension to their housekeeper and any associated employment tax liability. The order made achieved a "clean break" for both parties.

Case Summary by Bianca Jackson, Barrister, Coram Chambers

For full Case Summary, please see BAILII