The ‘Genius’ and the Wife

High profile footballer Ryan Giggs is the latest in a recent string of husbands to try and convince the family Courts that he is a ‘genius’ and should be awarded more than half of his estimated £40million fortune within divorce proceedings. Legal representatives for the footballer have attempted to persuade the High Court that the ‘special contribution’ he has made throughout his 10 year marriage should outweigh the efforts of his wife and technically disregard her own contributions to the family, which have included the care of their children.

Family lawyers often face an uphill battle in arguing that the exceptional financial success of one spouse should take precedence over anything which is contributed by the other in order to warrant an unequal division of assets, particularly where those of the other spouse have not been made in monetary terms and may have been focused on the welfare of the family.

Section 25(2)(f) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 provides the relevant guidance and requires the Court to have regard to the contribution which each party has made or is likely to make in the foreseeable future, to the welfare of the family. This is not to say that the law does not recognise any special contributions which may have been made by one party and which may have an impact on the outcome of any financial proceedings. In some cases the Court will deviate from the precedent ‘yardstick of equality’ and order an unequal division of assets, in favour of the party who has successfully argued that they made a special contribution to the marriage.

But what makes a ‘special contribution’? There are a small number of cases in which the concept has been argued well. The case of Sorrell v Sorrell [2005] EWHC 17 (Fam) saw the rise of the ‘genius’ spouse, which, in this particular case lead to the husband being awarded 60 % of the parties £75m wealth, despite the fact that Mr Sorrell, a successful and talented businessman, had been married to his wife for 33 years. In more recent years, the case of Cooper-Hohn v Hohn [2014] EWHC 4122 (Fam) saw Mrs Cooper-Hohn awarded a mere 36% of the parties $1.5bn fortune.

However, a stroke of genius is not easy to prove and there is extensive criteria, which must be met to satisfy any argument of this nature. A special contribution must be one that is unmatched by the other, that must not discriminate against the ‘home maker’ and must be an “exceptional and individual quality which deserves special treatment” (Charman v Charman (No.4) [2007] EWCA (Civ) 503).

Manchester United fans may hold Giggs’ footballing skills to be world-class however, it is yet to be seen whether this is enough for him to sway the family Court and join the minority of men who have done so successfully.

If you have separated or are considering separating from your husband or wife and would like further information or guidance as to how to deal with your finances upon divorce then please contact Hannah Nicholls, a family lawyer based in Thursfields’ Kidderminster office on 01562 512479 or email to

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