|‘Addictive Behaviour’ as Reason for Unequal Divorce Settlement|
A financial remedy order giving a bigger proportion of the marital assets to the ex-wife of a London commodities broker, partly on the grounds of her husband's 'reckless and addictive behaviour', has been upheld on appeal.
The order, made in the England & Wales High Court in January 2015, concerned David Rapp and Francoise Sarre, who were married for 15 years until their separation in 2009. The court valued their marital assets at GBP13.5 million, almost half of it in real property, as well as Swiss bank accounts and offshore investment accounts, in both their names. Rapp's assets were only about USD1 million when the marriage began, the judge ruled.
He divided the assets as follows: 54.5 percent to the wife; and 45.5 percent to the husband. This departure from equal division of the assets was justified for two reasons. The first was to cater for the wife's needs, valued at GBP171,000 a year, including clothing, footwear, beauticians and holidays. The second was the husband's conduct in the 'reckless frittering away of family money', and his addiction to cocaine and alcohol, leading to the permanent end of his career. The judge also took into account the distress caused to the wife by the husband's conduct and concluded that 'it would be inequitable to disregard the [money] wantonly expended and the distress to the wife of the husband's addictive behaviour.'
Rapp appealed, arguing that these justifications were 'unfair and wrong'. Much of the dispute related to the court's quantification of the couple's assets and liabilities, and of each party's needs. But Rapp also maintained that the judge had placed 'undue weight' on his behaviour and its effect on the couple's finances.
This argument was rejected by the England & Wales Court of Appeal, although Lady Justice Black said it was an 'interesting and challenging question of whether behaviour such as the husband's should be reflected in the court's ancillary relief order, and if so, how.' However, she said, the question did not arise here. Even if Rapp proved his point, the Appeal Court would not interfere with the original order, 'because the view that [the judge] took of the addiction aspect of the case was not a necessary part of the justification for it' (Rapp v Sarre, 2016 EWCA Civ 93).
Lady Black and her two colleagues dismissed Rapp's appeal and upheld the original order.
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Published on our website on Feb.23, 2016