Saturday 21 April 2018

Businessman's ex-wife entitled to €1.4m in assets and €60,000 a year maintenance - court


THE estranged wife of a businessman is entitled to €1.4m worth of property assets, including the family home, along with personal maintenance of €60,000 a year, the High Court ruled.

She is also entitled an indemnity from him concerning a substantial company tax liability estimated at more than €1m, Mr Justice Michael White found.

On foot of findings, including that the wife placed the family company in financial jeopardy due to acting irresponsibly in her role as a director, Mr Justice White said it would be "manifestly unfair" to grant her application to have the husband's shareholding transferred to her.

The judge ruled the husband, who he said had successfully run the company for 17 years, is entitled to full ownership of that company on conditions.

He is also entitled to a €180,000 holiday apartment, a €42,000 garage and various insurance policies.

The judge said he considered the wife's concern about future security of the family was "well-founded". He put conditions on the transfer of the company to the husband, including preventing it being sold or liquidated until the security required to pay the substantial tax bill is no longer required.

While he accepted the wife was traumatised, very angry with the husband and responsible for the children, the judge would have expected her to take more steps from 2010 on to get alternative employment.

He was giving his decision on proper provision in family law and divorce proceedings initiated by the husband in 2008 which, after a "torturous course" in the Circuit Court, were transferred to the High Court in early 2013.

The High Court judgment was delivered last November and has now become publicly available.

The man, from another EU state, met the woman here, they married in the late 1980s and have three children.

They opened a business in the early 1990s, the wife provided considerable assistance in the opening and expansion of that business but has not been actively involved in it since the late 1990s, the judge said.

Marital relation had deteriorated between the couple, solicitors became involved in 2006, the husband left the family home in 2007 and the children remain there with the wife.

There has, unfortunately,  been very little contact between the husband and children and, due to their age, there were no issues of custody and access, the judge noted.

The husband and wife are equal shareholders and directors of the company which operates the business and both took proceedings concerning how the other was dealing with company monies.

Following proceedings, the husband agreed in 2010 to return some €300,000 to the company while the wife undertook that any withdrawals made by her from the company's funds should be for company purposes only.

The husband and wife both sought in the family law proceedings to secure control of the company and disputed issues including substantial tax liabilities on outstanding directors' loans.

There were also disputes over "extensive credit card spending" over a period and considerable expenditure on necessary works connected with the family business.

There was no tax liability concerning payments from the company to the couple until after the man left the family home but in every year between

2008 and 2012, the directors withdrew substantially more than the salaries due to them, the judge said.

Between 2007 and August 2012, the amount withdrawn in excess of the net salaries was some €1.064m.

Some €1.135m of the total directors' loans made in the five years to August 2012 could be attributed solely to spending on the wife and children, including family home mortgage repayments, while some €247,538 could be allocated to expenditure by the husband alone, the judge said.

The evidence showed the vast majority of the directors loans withdrawn for the five years to August 2012 were for the benefit of the wife and children and this placed "considerable stress" on the company's accounts.

Both husband and wife had a joint responsibility to deal with the tax issue and should have regularised the position, including concerning maintenance for the wife and children and directors' fees.

The wife was "highly irresponsible" because of withdrawal of monies over and above the court ordered maintenance, directors fees and mortgage on the family home, which alone came to some €11,000 monthly.

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