Bill Gates Divorce: Can finances be divided amicably?

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda recently announced their intention to divorce after 27 years of marriage.

Having reportedly accumulated an extraordinary wealth of $130 billion, it was no surprise that the media response was live with speculation as to how their significant assets would be divided out upon divorce, particularly as it transpired that the couple had not entered into a pre-nupital agreement prior to their marriage.

However, it has since been reported that divorce papers filed by the couple make repeated reference to a “separation contract” which both have signed. It appears therefore that the couple, who share three children as well as business and charitable commitments, wish to have the marriage dissolved and assets divided in as amicable a manner as possible.

Can dividing assets on divorce be handled amicably in Northern Ireland?

Where there are financial issues arising following breakdown of the marriage, it is not necessary to ask the Court to determine how these should be divided. It is very common for parties who wish to avoid the stress and expense of Court proceedings to enter into negotiations with one another through their solicitors with a view to reaching a financial settlement on an agreed and amicable basis. This is known as a Matrimonial Agreement.

If an agreement can be reached, it will be drawn up into a legally binding document to be signed by both parties and often made an Order of the Court upon Divorce.

Increasingly these agreements are made on a “clean break” basis. That means that they set out what each parties’ entitlements are to family finances and provide that neither party will have a claim to the other’s finances in the future.

A solicitor specialising in divorce and separation can provide advice and assistance in negotiating Matrimonial Agreements with a view to reaching financial settlement. If settlement is not possible in this way, either spouse can ask the Court to make decisions about how assets should be divided. This does however tend to be a longer and more expensive process for both parties.

For further information on Matrimonial Agreements, feel free to contact us here

LIFE BITE: The Sharland & Gohil appeals: Another Bite at the Cherry?

apple-150579_1280There was much press coverage over the Supreme Court’s decision in the Sharland & Gohil appeals last week to allow both Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil to reopen their divorce settlements after they discovered that their husbands had not made full disclosure of their financial position at the time the Court decided the split of the matrimonial assets.

In all Court proceedings dealing with the division of assets on divorce, each spouse is legally required to provide the other with full  details of their entire financial position. This information is required to ensure that the Court and both parties are aware of the full extent of each other’s financial circumstances at the time a decision is being made as to how the matrimonial assets are to be divided.

It seems only right that one spouse’s fraud in failing to disclose their full financial position at the time of settlement should result in the case being reopened to ensure that a fair outcome is achieved on all of the facts.

The assets in most marriages will not be as substantial as Mrs Sharland’s – she had initially accepted a £10 million settlement from her husband! However, ensuring that each spouse obtains their fair share of all of the assets is no less important in more modest cases.

In reality, the circumstances in which both Mrs Sharland and Mrs Gohil subsequently found out that their former spouses had been lying about their finances are fairly unusual – after the divorces were intially settled, Mr Sharland’s business was floated on the stock market  and Mr Gohil’s full assets were revealed during a money laundering trial.  In most cases, if the extent of each party’s assets is not fully revealed during the divorce case, it is unlikely that this information would be discovered by the other spouse at a later date.

There has been a lot of debate that these appeal decisions may lead to an “opening of the floodgates” with countless divorces being reopened in a bid by one spouse to try and have “another bite at the cherry”.  Others however believe that the decision made by the Court in these appeals may act as a deterrent to others tempted to hide assets out of the Court’s reach.

If you would like any further information on this issue or any matter concerning divorce or division of matrimonial assets, please feel free to contact us here or leave us a message below.