For richer and poorer

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Mr and Mrs Rapp had a shared fortune of around £14m built up as a result of the husband’s success as an oil trader. However Mr Rapp was addicted to cocaine, alcohol, gambling and prostitutes. As a result his wife got more than half of the assets on divorce. He said she had marred him in sickness and in health and that his addiction was a sickness. However Mrs Rapp may well have considered those other wedding vows – for richer and poorer.

The judge explained why he considered it fair to the parties to depart from an equal division of assets -

“The first reason was that it was necessary in order to cater for the wife’s needs and would still leave the husband with sufficient to meet his needs.

“The second reason was the husband’s conduct, which the judge accepted had led to the reckless frittering away of family money.”

Conduct is often a difficult argument to run in family cases and as we can see from this one it really does have to be very extreme before the court will take it into account. In this case the court estimated that Mr Rapp had spent aorund £600K on his “life style” of drink, drugs and prostitutes between the date separation in December 2014 and the date of trial. It was also said that when sober he was a rainmaker capable of making a great deal of money with a substantial earning capacity. No doubt the court felt that Mr Rapp would quickly recover the additional £1.2 million received by his wife.

The court felt this was a needs case in which the wife was entitled to maintain the standard of living enjoyed during their 16 year marriage but would not be able to do so by working herself. Presumably the court also felt that it would not be fair to ignore Mr Rapp’s behaviour which had itself depleted the financial pot. He had been spending around £200K a year on his lifestyle and that money would have been available to Mrs Rapp if her husband had acted differently.