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Divorcing husband was too extreme in closing family business

A judge has ordered that a divorce settlement should include an unequal split in the wife’s favour after her husband had behaved in an extreme and unacceptable way when he sold the family business.

The couple had been married for 24 years and had three children, aged 22, 20 and 15.

In 2010, they had started a business which operated vessels providing services in the construction of offshore wind farms and oil and gas sub-sea operations.

When they divorced, both husband and wife embarked on protracted proceedings in which they incurred costs disproportionate to their assets. The proceedings were made more complex by the fact that the husband had sold the business to another company that he owned.

After examining the evidence, the Family Court held that for the husband to have closed the family business, of which the wife was a joint owner, and transferred all assets to a new business owned by him, was egregious conduct which was so extreme that it could not be ignored.

The wife lost the opportunity to share in income subsequently received by the new company.

The court noted that the couple’s net assets were £738,375. The husband’s earning capacity far exceeded the wife’s and, as principal carer of the youngest child, her needs were greater.

There should therefore be a clean break and an unequal split in the wife’s favour with the net effect that the husband should receive £77,414 and the wife £660,961.

The court added that the husband was guilty of litigation misconduct during the complex proceedings and should therefore pay 25% of the wife’s costs.

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Divorcing husband was too extreme in closing family business
Crowther v Crowther
Family Court
27 October 2021
[2021] EWFC 88
Peel J