Judgments - White White v. White (Conjoined Appeals)

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    In the present case, bearing in mind that it was a marriage of more than thirty years, that there were three children and that the wife was an active partner in the farming business as well as meeting the responsibilities of wife and mother, the only plausible reason for departing from equality can be the financial help given by the husband's father. I agree, however, that the significance of this is diminished because over a long marriage the parties jointly made the most of that help and because it was apparently intended at least partly for the benefit of both. As Lord Simon of Glaisdale said, in delivering the judgment of the Privy Council in a case under the former New Zealand legislation,

    "Initially a gift or bequest to one spouse only is likely to fall outside the Act, because the other spouse will have made no contribution to it. But as time goes on, and depending on the nature of the property in question, the other spouse may well have made a direct or indirect contribution to its retention.": Haldane v Haldane [1977] A.C. 673, 697.

    My only doubt is whether the help from the husband's father should be seen as justifying a difference of the order of 20 per cent in the overall shares of the parties. I think that £1.5 million was probably about the minimum that could have been awarded to Mrs White without exposing the award to further increase on further appeal. But I am prepared to accept that the figure was one open to the Court of Appeal in the exercise of their discretion, and that your Lordships should not interfere with it. So I would join in dismissing both appeals.

LORD HOPE OFCRAIGHEAD

My Lords,

    I have had the advantage of reading in draft the speech which has been prepared by my noble and learned friend Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead. I agree with it, and for the reasons which he has given I too would dismiss both appeals.

LORD HUTTON

My Lords,

    I have had the advantage of reading in draft the speech of my noble and learned friend Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead. I am in full agreement with it and, in particular, I agree with his opinion that it is the duty of the court at first instance to arrive at a fair result by taking into account not only the financial needs of the wife under section 25 (2)(b) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 as amended, but also to take into account the financial resources of each of the parties under section 25 (2)(a) and the contributions of each of the parties to the welfare of the family under section 25(2)(f) together with the other factors set out in the subsection. Accordingly, I would also dismiss both appeals.

 
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