Courts exercised discretion in landmark divorce ruling

1st January 2018

The courts ‘exercised their discretion in a perfectly reasonable way’ when ordering city trader Julie Arnold to hand over assets to her husband in a landmark divorce ruling.

“It is an interesting case, and one may well have sympathies with Mrs Arnold,” said Philip Barnsley, Head of the Family team at West Midlands law firm Higgs & Sons. “But given the circumstances I believe the court has pertinently applied the relevant law in this case.”

Ms Arnold has been widely reported in the press as saying her cheating ex-husband ‘won the lottery’ with the settlement, and is calling for divorce laws to be amended.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Julie Arnold, formerly Sharp, said: “Matrimonial law relies on a 1973 act and distributes wealth based on case law involving a couple who married in 1961 and stayed together for 30 years.

“Our life is different now and there will be more and more couples who divorce after shorter marriages before they have children.”

Philip Barnsley, commenting on the case, states: “Whilst I have sympathy with Julie Arnold’s position, I don’t think that it is desirable to have separate rules for a small number of cases where the circumstances may be different.

“In order to protect her position, Mrs Arnold was free to enter into a pre-nuptial agreement prior to getting married, which would have mitigated much of what forms the basis of her complaint now. Alternatively a post-nuptial agreement as and when she started to earn significantly more than her husband would have clearly established the position regarding a relationship breakdown.

“Mrs Arnold actually succeeded in her appeal against the initial ruling. From assets of £6.9m, her husband was awarded £2.725m in the first instance - reduced to £2m on appeal. As a result all he actually received was 50% of their jointly owned properties, a further £700k to reflect their standard of living, a small capital fund and a small share of the his wife’s retained capital.

“She is clearly angry, but in terms of the outcome, the parties entered their marriage with similar income and capital. What is different here is that Mrs Arnold earned huge bonuses during their marriage of around £10.5m and feels that she should have been awarded most if not all of this.

“Looking at this case in its entirety, I believe the courts have appropriately and correctly applied the law and exercised their discretion in a reasonable way. Not all parties may agree with that , but I don’t believe that creating different rules for broadly similar cases is necessarily the answer to the concerns expressed by Mrs Arnold.”

For more information on divorce, pre-nups or post nuptial agreements, please contact Philip Barnsley or one of Higgs & Sons’ specialist solicitors on 0345 111 5050, or go to for further information.


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