What's the difference between a long and short marriage when it comes to the financial settlement on divorce? 

Following a recent court ruling, the difference could be a significant amount of cash.

Official statistics for England and Wales estimate that 42% of marriages will end in divorce, with around a third of marriages ending before the 20th anniversary. 

The Court of Appeal ruling for Julie and Robin Sharp has raised questions about conventional financial splits on divorce following a short marriage.

The Sharps got married in 2008 and then Mrs Sharp applied for a divorce in 2013, on grounds of adultery.

The marriage was described by the High Court judge as “not so desperately short … as some, but still by no means lengthy”.

During the course of their 'no means lengthy' marriage, their total assets grew to nearly £7m, most of which was accumulated between 2008 and 2013.

Mrs Sharp argued that the vast majority of this wealth was earned by her as a result of her sole endeavor at work.

Importantly for this case, the couple had no children and kept their finances separate throughout the marriage.

The initial court ruling granted Mr Sharp half of the couple's total fortune, but this decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal, ruling that Mr Sharp should receive just £2m.

This was calculated based on half the value of their properties and an additional sum to reflect their standard of living during the marriage, his need for a modest capital fund from which to live and also “some share” in Mrs Sharp’s assets.

This ruling could have significant implications for future divorce cases, especially for women following short marriages, where there are no children from the relationship.

This is because the ruling seems to change the often used starting point of a 50/50 split for the division of assets on divorce following short marriages.

It will be interesting to see how this ruling is applied to future divorce cases. 

As always, you should seek professional legal advice when considering a divorce or separation, as well as speaking to a Chartered Financial Planner or Chartered Wealth Manager.