A wife who complained that a £3.5million divorce payout after she separated from a property tycoon was her ‘worst case scenario’ has had her appeal for more cash thrown out today.
Karen Hart, 61, said she should have been handed more than £5million after her divorce from 82-year-old John Hart after 20 years of marriage.
She argued she should have got at least half of a family fortune valued at £9.4 million and it was ‘unfair and discriminatory’ that he walked away with £5.9million.
Mrs Hart’s lawyer told the court in May that her £3.5million payout ‘was, as it transpired, the worst possible result for her.’
But Appeal Court judges today disagreed with her, pointing to the fact that Mr Hart was already a multi-millionaire when they married in the 1980s so he should get more than half.
Karen Hart, 61, said she should have been handed more than £5million after divorcing rich husband John Hart – but judges ruled against her today and she must live with £3.5million
A ‘man of substance’, he had built a property development empire after starting out on his father’s market stall, selling fruit, in the 1950s.
Mrs Hart was working as an air hostess when they met and ‘had no assets save for a Porsche’, said Lord Justice Moylan.
Mr Hart, 82, pictured left with a blonde companion outside court previously, started out in fruit and veg and then made his money in property
Despite the more than 20 years between their ages, the couple met and fell in love in 1979 and tied the knot in 1987.
They had two, now adult, children together and lived in a £1.1m five-bedroom gated residence in Wishaw, near Sutton Coldfield.
Their palatial home boasted a gym, home cinema room, a separate guest annexe and garaging for five cars.
Their prosperous lifestyle included holiday homes in Miami and Spain but they separated in 2006 and started divorce proceedings in 2011.
Since then, the court heard, Mr and Mrs Hart have spent over £500,000 on lawyers’ bills whilst fighting over money.
Family Judge Stephen Wildblood in 2015 divided their assets unequally, handing Mrs Hart £3.5m to cover her ‘reasonable needs.’
That was just 37 per cent of the money pot, but the judge found that Mr Hart was ‘wealthy before the marriage’, bringing £2.6m with him into the union.
Moving on from his father’s stall, he branched out into financial services before shifting into property development around the time the couple started living together.
By the time of the divorce, the family wealth came to £9.4m, including a trust fund worth £5.5 million, which was found to be ‘the husband’s resources’.
Peter Mitchell, for Mrs Hart, argued that her £3.5million payout ‘was, as it transpired, the worst possible result for her.’
By focusing on her ‘needs’, rather than equally dividing the family assets, Judge Wildblood had reached an ‘unfair and discriminatory result.’
‘It is discriminatory to the wife to limit her to her reasonable needs and to say ‘we are giving the husband everything else’,’ he argued.
‘The resolution of the case on needs was the worst possible outcome for Mrs Hart.
‘Marriage is a partnership of equals and, if you build up a pot together, you should share equally in that pot.
‘It was the worst possible result, which precluded any sharing.’
The £1.1m former matrimonial home of Mr and Mrs Hart near Sutton Coldfield (pictured) – they also spent time in villas in Spain and the US
But Grant Armstrong, for Mr Hart, described the fortune Mr Hart brought to the marriage 30 years ago as an ‘elephant in the room’.
Compared to his resources at the time of the marriage, his young bride – just 27 when they met – was a financial ‘mouse’, he added.
Mr Hart was already very rich by then, having several cars, yachts, the properties in Spain and Miami and all the trappings of wealth.
‘He was coming into this marriage as a man in his 50s, after a lifetime of working in business and having considerable property assets,’ said the barrister.
‘This was not a case where a couple grew their assets together.’
Far from being unfair to her, the divorce had left Mrs Hart ‘a home, a holiday home, a lifetime income at a very considerable figure and clear of liabilities.’
Ruling on Mrs Hart’s appeal today, Lord Justice Moylan said there were ‘deficiencies’ in Mr Hart’s evidence about the extent of his assets.
But he concluded: ‘I have, after much reflection, come to the conclusion that the judge did not fall into error when awarding the wife £3.5 million.
‘The judge was plainly entitled to find that the husband had substantial wealth at the commencement of the relationship, because this was agreed.
‘He was also entitled…to conclude that an equal division would be unfair to the husband and, equally, that an unequal division would be fair to the wife.’
Lords Justice Lloyd Jones and Beatson agreed that Mrs Hart’s appeal should be dismissed.