Farmer’s ex-wife to get €900,000 in asset-division ruling

Woman to get funds in lump sum after ex-husband disputed valuation figures

The ex-wife of a farmer is to get an extra €52,000, bringing her lump sum payment to €900,000, following a Supreme Court decision on a long-running dispute over calculation of the division of their assets in marital proceedings.

The woman will get €900,000, rather than €848,683, as a lump sum following an appeal in which the former husband disputed, due to the collapse of property prices, the breakdown of valuation figures for the farm, said to be worth €7.8 million.

The three-judge Supreme Court also made a number of general recommendations concerning the presentation of division of assets in complex contested marital proceedings so as to avoid those resources being reduced through costs in various legal challenges.

‘Frayed relationships’


Numerous court applications in such cases not only “worsen already frayed relationships” but will necessarily also diminish the assets available for division between the parties, the court said.

The comments were made in a joint judgment of Mr Justice Frank Clarke and Mr Justice John McMenamin, with whom the Chief Justice, Ms Justice Susan Denham, agreed.

The proceedings concerned a couple who were granted a judicial separation in December 2008.

The family assets were mainly farmland said to be worth about €7.8 million and, as part of the financial provisions of the High Court separation order, the husband was required to pay his wife €2.8 million after he sold certain lands, the judgment noted.

‘Catastrophic collapse’

In his appeal against that order, the husband argued, due to the “catastrophic” collapse in property prices, the payment order no longer represented an equal division of assets as required by the order.

The Supreme Court then sent the case back to the High Court to deal with the division of assets in light of the decline in property values.

Separately, the wife asked the High Court to stop crops being sown on the land scheduled to be sold and the court ordered the wife should have sole carriage of the sale of the land.

She also complained to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) alleging breach of her right to effective legal remedy as a result of delay.

The husband applied to court seeking to have the sale of the lands by his wife varied so only certain parts would be sold. This was refused and the husband erected, or had someone erect, signs on the land objecting to the sale, the judgment said.

Entrance obstructed

A pile of hardcore was also placed at the entrance gate obstructing the land but the husband later undertook to remove it.

The wife settled her ECHR proceedings when the State made a unilateral declaration that the length of the case and lack of effective remedy were incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The land was eventually sold for €1.7 million and the court directed how it be divided up.

Because the husband had appealed the High Court decision ordering the sale, the Supreme Court granted a stay on disbursement of the money subject to the wife getting €600,000, which she received.

In its judgment, the Supreme Court held it was open to the High Court judge to conclude there was a delay in the sale of the land which was significantly attributable to the husband’s obstructive actions.

Adjusted sum

The court concluded both the husband’s appeal and the wife’s cross-appeal raised matters which required adjustment of the amount of the lump sum to the wife. It fixed that sum at €900,000, rather than €848,683 as set by the High Court judge.

The court also made recommendations concerning good practice which it believed would be helpful in such cases and, as part of the judgment, provided a one-page suggested schedule for division of assets.

One column provides for the listing by the husband and wife of each other’s assets, while another column provides for what each party thinks the other spouse’s assets are.

Another column is allocated for a judge’s determination of what the assets are.

The court also made recommendations for trial judges aimed at achieving consistency in such cases.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times