A former financial executive felt that he should get more than the usual 50/50 split of the marital assets because his self-described "genius" was a special contributing factor that helped the couple accrue their wealth.
The appeals court didn't agree.
While this particular divorce played out in a United Kingdom domestic courtroom, both the participants are American and the British system of marital property division is similar to that of California's. Each spouse is usually entitled to an even share of the marital property.
The retired financial executive wanted 61 percent of the couple's assets, which are valued well into the millions because he felt that his special brand of intelligence is what led him to successfully generate huge returns in the international debt market. The judges agreed that he had worked hard for his success but felt that his success had a lot to do with being ideally positioned to take advantage of an investment boom rather than personal brilliance.
This sort of case helps illustrate what can sometimes be difficult for a member of a divorcing couple to understand in locations where the marital property is generally divided up equally: Just because you earned it, doesn't mean you get to keep it.
The law is designed to compensate the non-working spouse equally with the working spouse for a good reason:
Under the law, a married couple is generally treated like one functioning economic unit -- sacrifices are usually made by both partners. Historically, women have given up careers in order to play a supportive role toward their husbands, as well as take on household duties and child-rearing. In recent years, more men have moved into that role than ever before, so the law treats both genders the same.
No matter which spouse worked at the office and which one worked at home, both spouses were working for a common goal: their joint enrichment. They deserve to be compensated equally for their efforts, even if one member of the couple happens to have some exceptional financial instincts, luck or genius.
If you sacrificed your career for your spouse's career, and he or she is now balking at a fair division of the assets and dragging you through the court of appeals, talk to an attorney today.