An anaesthetist has been ordered to hand over his entire fortune of £550,000 in a case described as “exceptional but fair”.
Essam Aly separated from his wife, Enas Aly, in 2011 and moved from the UK to Bahrain. He stopped paying child support in 2012. Fearing that he would never pay any further money to support his ex-wife and their two children, the family court judge ruled that all of his assets should go to his ex-wife. The Court of Appeal later upheld the award.
The case is highly unusual, since divorcing partners are rarely left without capital, even if their earning capacity is considerably higher than the other partner’s. In this instance, though, the clear unwillingness of Essam Aly to pay his family any money at all made such a decision not only warranted but necessary in the eyes of the judge. Because Aly had moved to Bahrain, he remained outside of the jurisdiction of the Child Support Agency and this was the only way to guarantee a settlement for his family.
While a “departure from equality” is not uncommon, the 100 per cent award reflected the extremely unusual circumstances.
Sharon McKie, specialist divorce solicitor at Atherton Godfrey, said: “The facts of this case were highly unusual and rare. It demonstrates however that where achieving fairness between the
parties dictate extreme measures, that the court will exercise its discretion in doing so.”
Judges have a large degree of discretion in distributing wealth at divorce, with individual circumstances guiding the decisions made. It is worth remembering that where assets are held off-shore, enforcing the decision can be difficult. This judgement will therefore serve not only as a prompt for other judges to make similar awards under appropriate circumstances, but also to consider how the funds will be collected.
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