Wife awarded entire estate in “extraordinary” divorce ruling

Court of Appeal upholds 100% award to wife in a decision which has been described as an “extraordinary departure from equality."

Hospital consultant, Mr Essam Aly, has been ordered to transfer all of his interest in the £560,000 family assets to his former wife, Mrs Enas Aly.

The facts

The parties were married in 2002 and have two children.  Mr Aly was a consultant anaesthetist at Queen's Hospital, in Burton-on-Trent whilst Mrs Aly worked as a GP in Derby.

The parties separated in 2011 and Mr Aly relocated to Bahrain the following year.  It is understood that Mr Aly has since entered into a new relationship, undergone an Islamic marriage ceremony and has another child.

Mrs Aly meanwhile asserted that Mr Aly had not paid any child or spousal maintenance since he moved to Bahrain.

The decision

At first instance, the Court acknowledged that whilst residing in Bahrain, Mr Aly would be outside of the jurisdiction of the UK Courts and the Child Maintenance Services.

The Court sought to provide Mrs Aly and her two children with some financial security by capitalising her claim for spousal maintenance.  Mrs Aly was awarded 100% of the matrimonial assets, a decision which has been described as an “extraordinary departure from equality”.

Mr Aly applied to overturn the decision and his appeal has been dismissed by the Court of Appeal.  Lord Justice McFarlane reasoned:

"On the case before the judge, the wife was to have the sole responsibility and financial burden for bringing these children up.  The judge, therefore, concluded that she should have the lion's share, if not all, of the assets, as she needed them to house herself in appropriate accommodation and make provision for these children.  Thus it was that he awarded her a far more substantial lump sum than would otherwise have been the case if equality was the only yardstick."

Our comment

This case highlights the discretion available to Family Judges to ensure that a fair settlement is achieved in matrimonial cases.  Whilst rare, 100% rulings are extremely beneficial for financially dependent spouses and primary carers dealing with a serial defaulter residing outside of the jurisdiction.

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

Beverley Jones

Partner - Head of Family Department (Liverpool)

Heading the family team in Liverpool, I am a family and matrimonial expert who deals with all aspects of family law.