The circumstances were unique, however. Hospital consultant Dr. Essam Aly, 54, left his wife, Enas, in 2011 and hasn't paid a single penny in maintenance or child support since 2012.
Birmingham family court heard that the anaesthetist "washed his hands" of his family after moving to Bahrain, and the wife's lawyers argued that there was a chance he would never again pay anything to support her or their two children since he was living outside the British legal jurisdiction.
The judge ordered that the family's entire fortune should go to the wife — and the decision has been upheld by the Court of Appeal.
"The judge had in front of him a case where he was entitled to hold there was no realistic expectation of getting any further maintenance out of the husband," said Lord Justice McFarlane, as reported in The Telegraph. "He was beyond the reach of enforcement of courts in this country. He hadn't been paying for the previous two years. The judge was required, in determining the outcome of the financial provision proceedings, to give first consideration to the welfare of the two children.
"On the case before the judge, the wife was to have the sole responsibility and financial burden for bringing these children up," he continued. "The judge, therefore, concluded that she should have the lion's share, if not all, of the assets, as she needed them to house herself in appropriate accommodation and make provision for these children. Thus it was that he awarded her a far more substantial lump sum than would otherwise have been the case if equality was the only yardstick."
By upholding the ruling, the Court of Appeal dismissed the argument presented by the husband's lawyers, who argued that it was unfair to hand what was effectively 100 percent of the couple's assets to the wife without considering "the husband's needs".
Lesson to be learnt? Don't try to wriggle out of those maintenance payments — it could cost you in capital.
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