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High-Profile Divorce Ruling: Banker Wins Back £20 Million in Court Proceedings

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High-Profile Divorce Ruling: Banker Wins Back GBP20 Million in Court Proceedings

Navigating family law can be particularly challenging, especially in divorce cases involving significant assets and complex financial arrangements.

Sam Miles, Partner and Solicitor in our Family Legal team, explores these challenges by reviewing a recent landmark case: the legal battle between Clive Standish, a former CFO of UBS and wealthy sheep-farming tycoon, and his ex-wife, Anna Standish.

After 15 years of marriage and with two children, the Standishes faced a contentious divorce that brought up issues about dividing assets, differentiating between marital and non-marital property, and strategies to reduce tax liabilities.

Case Background

Clive Standish, now 69, entered the marriage with substantial assets totalling £57.3 million. Over the years, the couple's total wealth grew to £132 million, primarily due to Mr Standish's initial wealth. The couple tried to protect some of their assets to avoid high inheritance taxes, leading to a legal battle after their separation.

In 2016, changes in tax laws led Mr Standish to transfer £80 million to his then-wife Anna, 55, intending to eventually place these assets in an offshore trust for their children. However, their marriage ended before this plan could be completed, resulting in a dispute over the ownership and division of these funds.

Initial Court Ruling

In December, Mr Justice Moor decided that Mr Standish should keep £87.6 million of the family wealth, leaving Mrs Standish with £45 million. This decision was based on the understanding that the £80 million transferred to Mrs Standish was meant for a trust, not as a gift for her personal use. Mrs. Standish argued that the assets should be considered marital property and divided equally, even though she did not bring significant wealth into the marriage.

Appeal and Revised Settlement

Unhappy with the initial ruling, Mr Standish appealed the decision, arguing that the £80 million should not be considered marital property. The Court of Appeal, comprising Lady Justice King, Lord Justice Moylan, and Lord Justice Phillips, agreed with Mr Standish. They ruled that the source of the assets is essential in determining their status and concluded that the transfer did not change their character from non-marital to marital property.

The appeal court's decision reduced Mrs Standish's share from £45 million to £25 million, applying the principle of fair sharing. However, the court also noted that a proper assessment of Mrs. Standish's needs to maintain her accustomed lifestyle had not been conducted. As a result, the case has been sent back to the High Court Family Division for further evaluation.

Future Implications

This case underscores the complexities involved in high-net-worth divorces, particularly concerning asset transfers intended for tax planning. It also highlights the importance of clear intentions and legal safeguards in financial arrangements within marriage.

Family law expert Sam Miles says, "This case illustrates the critical importance of clear documentation and intent in financial arrangements. Couples with significant assets should seek expert legal advice to navigate potential pitfalls, understand the implications of asset transfers, and ensure fair outcomes aligned with legal principles and personal circumstances."

As the case proceeds with a new hearing to assess Mrs Standish's needs, the legal community will closely watch the outcome, which may set precedents for future cases involving similar disputes over asset classification and division.

Get in touch

For expert guidance through the complexities of divorce, reach out to Sam Miles and our dedicated Family Legal team on 023 8063 9311 or via email at enquiries@warnergoodman.co.uk. We're here to provide the support and advice you need to navigate your divorce proceedings with clarity and confidence.