Tuesday 16 January 2018

Wife entitled to separation and multi-million euro assets after businessman husband's repeated adultery


Tim Healy

A woman cannot be reasonably expected to remain with her "extremely dynamic" businessman husband after his admission of repeated and continuing adultery, a High Court judge has said.

The woman is entitled to a decree of judicial separation, Mr Justice David Keane said.

On the basis of a €7.4m valuation of available assets, the judge said the wife, a mother-of-four and full-time homemaker, is entitled to the €1.6m family home and a €1.7m holiday home. 

She is also entitled to €18,000 monthly maintenance (€15,000 for herself and €3,000 for the children) and half of the man's €1.8m pension scheme.

The husband, who the judge noted had average annual earnings of €1.4m for the last five years, can retain his new home, plus other assets. 

The assets include ownership or control of companies valued at some €7.4m; various bank accounts; a share portfolio; and various investment properties valued about €2.3m in early 2014 but subject to loan finance of more than €7.7m.

The judge dismissed claims by the man of unreasonable behaviour by his wife, including slapping him twice in the face because he spent significant time with another woman, a friend of the couple, during a holiday suggested by him to reconcile the couple's differences.

His wife said she felt so humiliated by her husband's behaviour she left the venue alone and slapped him later. 

While the man alleged his wife was "hysterical" and her response was unwarranted, she was not cross-examined on her evidence and there was no evidence the husband suffered any physical injury, the judge said.

The husband also complained about a second incident in which his wife, on the day after he told her their marriage was over in late 2012, slapped him during a dispute concerning a failed purchase of a house which had been intended as a new family home.

While physical assault can never be condoned, it was impossible to regard those "minor" incidents, seen in the context of the husband's infidelities and their particular circumstances, as behaviour so unreasonable the husband could not be expected to live with the wife, the judge said.

The man's claim of excessive spending by the wife was also "impossible to sustain" as the husband's business was highly profitable during the marriage and both parties "spent freely", he said.

While the man's property portfolio went into negative equity, he was able to service the debt with no evidence of restraint on either household or his personal spending.

The husband had no case for judicial separation for unreasonable behaviour by his wife, he said.

She was "plainly entitled" to such a decree given his admission of repeated and continuing adultery and could not be reasonably expected to live with her husband given such behaviour.

The judge also noted the couple, aged in their forties, were married for some 18 years before the husband told his wife in late 2012 the marriage was over and left to continue or resume a relationship he had embarked on with a friend of his wife's.

He previously had a sexual relationship over several months with an employee and during the proceedings admitted he also engaged in other extra-marital sexual relationships during his marriage.

Given the background of the man's adultery, it was surprising he, not the wife, initiated the judicial separation proceedings, the judge said.

It was "more surprising", having initiated the case, the husband did not reference or acknowledge the adultery but instead sought a decree on grounds of the wife's unreasonable behaviour or, alternatively, irretrievable marital breakdown.

The husband alleged the couple had no meaningful relationship for more than half of the marriage but later conceded they had sexual relations up to autumn 2012, the judge said.

The court accepted the wife's evidence her husband never expressed misgivings about the relationship until he told her the marriage was over.

The court could not grant a decree of judicial separation on a no fault ground because that required a normal marital relationship had not existed for at least one year prior to the initiation of the man's proceedings in January 2013.

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