On 11th April 2017, Daily Mail Online reported that ex Manchester United footballer, Ryan Giggs, was seeking to argue in The High Court in London that he had made a “special contribution” to the wealth in his marriage. The purpose of this argument was to try to demonstrate that he should get an enhanced share of the matrimonial capital because his contribution to the marriage was effectively far greater than that of his wife. Ryan Giggs follows a long line of financially successful individuals who have tried to convince the Family Court since 2006 that they had the “X factor” which distinguished their earning capacity from other mortal multi-millionaires.
Mr and Mrs Giggs will have their day in court in the fullness of time but the signs are that the Family Court Judges are anxious to limit findings of special contribution to those where the contribution is of a wholly exceptional nature which would justify a departure from the object of achieving fairness for the parties.
In another very recent “special contribution” case (Work -v- Gray reported on 26th April 2017), the Court of Appeal referred to the definition adopted by Mr Justice Holman who decided the case first of all. He said there would need to be clear evidence of “some exceptional and individual quality which deserves special treatment”. Hard work alone was not enough.
In the Work -v- Gray case, Mr Work was employed by a private equity fund called Lone Star. It was a very successful organisation. Mr Justice Holman had noted that Mr Work had not set up this company. He had, through his skills, caused it to grow rapidly and to generate huge returns in a ten year period. However the Judge considered that Mr Work was not unique and that there was no evidence that the role could not have been performed by another. There was, he said, an element of Mr Work “being in the right place at the right time”. The Court of Appeal rejected Mr Work’s appeal against Mr Justice Holman’s decision.
Unless Ryan Giggs can show that he was in some way unique to the Manchester United team and acquired wealth which no other person could have achieved he may well receive the same response from the court.