For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer.
On the face of it, the story of MAP v MFP  EWHC 627 started as a fairy-tale. Two childhood sweethearts married, built up a very successful property maintenance business which was valued at approximately £22million, had four children and were married for 40 years. They had, amongst other things, a luxury home in England together with two villas in Spain.
At some point, when the husband was in his 50s he was introduced to cocaine. An addiction took hold and the marriage then failed. The wife submitted that this addiction led to the spending of around £6,000 per week on drugs and alcohol and that he also spent large sums of money on prostitution.
The wife, who had been employed by the family company, appears to have discovered the husband’s activities with prostitutes in March 2014 following which the wife was immediately suspended from her employment and was told that that she faced disciplinary proceedings. Although the wife never found out what allegations were made against her, she was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct in November 2014 causing a further reduction in the matrimonial pot as a result of the loss of certain tax benefits arising from her dismissal.
Needless to say, the dream started to become a nightmare. When the parties ended up in court, the wife asked the court to add-back £1.5 million for sums she said had been spent in pursuance of the husband’s addictions and other behaviour. The wife did not seek to add-back all of the monies she said he had spent, only those for a 2 year period which started 6 months after the separation.
The Judge accepted that the husband had significantly overspent. However, the Judge found that this overspending was as a result of his flawed character and that he did it in part because he could not prevent himself from doing it. Some of the money in which add-back was sought was spent in pursuance of the husband’s quest for perfection in buildings works but also with regard to the cocaine and prostitution. The Judge explained that as much as he had great difficulty in making a decision in this respect (particularly the drugs and prostitute), he noted that ‘a spouse must take his or her partner as she finds them’.
Where does this take us?
In this case, the parties’ wealth meant that their respective needs could be met without undertaking the process of add-back. However, if this were a case where the funds available following the spending did not meet the parties’ respective needs, would the court still find that the other party should simply accept that this is part of the person they married? There are other cases which have been decided where the wanton and reckless spending on gambling and drugs, for example, have been added-back to the matrimonial pot and as with many areas of family law, future decisions will always be fact specific. As to the degree to which wanton and reckless spending can be excused as a personality flaw, we will have to wait and see.
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This paper is intended to be a brief note for clients and other interested parties. The information is believed to be correct at the date of publication but should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional advice. Please speak to a member of our team.