Court ordered payout 30 years after divorce
Last Updated: 6:00pm BST 28/06/2007
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A wealthy retired builder was ordered to pay more money to the woman he divorced nearly 30 years ago after a judge heard she had "fallen on hard times", the Court of Appeal was told yesterday.
Dennis North, 70, was divorced from his first wife Jean, 61, in 1978 - a year after finding out she was having an affair with the man she later went to live with.
In 1981 he made a financial settlement with the woman he married in 1964, buying her a house and investments.
Over the years, he increased her assets so that she would have been able to live comfortably for the rest of her life, the judges were told.
But in 1999, she sold up and moved to Australia where she saw her capital dwindle because of bad investments and what the court was told was a lifestyle beyond her means.
A district judge awarded her a lump sum of £202,000 in April last year despite agreeing that Mrs North's money troubles had nothing to do with her former husband and he had no further responsibility towards her.
Since his divorce from his first wife, Mr North had prospered and his wealth is now estimated at between £5 million and £11 million, the court was told.
Mr North, who was left to bring up the three children of the marriage and has two children by his second wife, wants the Court of Appeal to quash the award.
Philip Moor QC, representing him, told the panel of judges headed by Lord Justice Thorpe that Mrs North had made no attempt to find a job since 1977, when she was 32.
When she sold all her assets and emigrated, she chose to live in an expensive part of Sydney, he said.
If she had stayed in the North of England she would have been comfortably off for the rest of her life.
"The whole purpose of divorce is to disentangle people so they can lead independent lives," he told the three judges.
Mr Moor told Lord Justice Thorpe, sitting with Lord Justice May and Mr Justice Bennett, that it was not his client's fault that his first wife "has fallen on hard times and she cannot now go back for a second bite of the cherry".
But Mrs North's counsel, Deborah Bangay QC, said it was not her client's fault that her investments had gone wrong and the District Judge took account of her ex-husband's wealth and the fact that she needed additional support when he gave her an award at the "bottom end of the spectrum".
She added: "This was not a second bite at the cherry, but it is what are her reasonable needs. The court was entitled to take into account the obvious wealth of her former husband. It was an extraordinarily modest award set against his wealth."
The court reserved its judgment to a date to be fixed.