Special Contribution in Divorce finance cases

Is Ryan Giggs a genius? Anybody who isn’t a Manchester United fan would probably say ‘No’.

Paul McCartney was described as an ‘icon’ in his famous divorce from Heather Mills but how do you compare one of the most influential men in music history with a footballer?

The general question of genius is of course rather subjective and it is particularly pertinent today on the back of two cases in the press.

On the same day on which it has been reported that Ryan Giggs will claim a ‘special contribution’ in his divorce finances case, the US millionaire banker Randy Work has lost his case in the Court of Appeal on a similar argument.

In many cases involving the super-wealthy the family court is being asked to determine whether or not there should be a greater proportion of the assets attributed to one party on the basis of that person making what has historically termed to be a ‘stellar’ contribution.

In the case of Cooper-Hohn v Cooper-Hohn [2014] EWHC 4122 (Fam) the court decided that the husband’s special contribution did merit a greater award and that he could be described as a ‘genius’.

Roberts J stated that, in order to be considered as a genius:

a person must have some exceptional natural capacity or intellectual or creative power or other natural ability which finds reflection in the exercise of an exceptional skill in a  particular area of activity…I take the view that he qualifies as a financial genius in his particular filed of financial investment. If he does not, who could?

Conversely in Randy Work’s case, the judgement of which was upheld today in the Court of Appeal, Holman J the judge deciding the case in the initial judgement was of the opinion that:

A successful claim to a special contribution requires some exceptional and individual quality in the spouse concerned. Being in the right place at the right time or benefiting from a period of boom is not enough”

Rather prophetically on the news regarding Ryan Giggs today, Holman J in the Randy Work case said this:

“It may one day fall for consideration whether a very highly paid footballer, who is very good at his job but may be no more skilful than past greats, such as Stanley Matthews or Bobby Charlton, makes a special contribution or is merely the lucky beneficiary of the colossal payments now made possible by the sale of television rights”

Special contribution cases are difficult to prove and highly facts-specific. Based upon the decision in Work v Gray today Giggs may well struggle. Is he a genius or a beneficiary of a genius manager surrounded by other world class football players? Is he an icon like Sir Paul? Who was more of a genius – Ryan Giggs or Wolfgang Mozart? It would be an interesting conversation in the pub, never mind the family court.

Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith
Associate Solicitor
Family Law Team
0113 3222807

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