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Katriona MacFarlane, 58, appealed to the Court of Appeal after the judge at first instance awarded her half the net proceeds of sale of the house plus a further £140,000 lump sum.
The basis of her appeal was that she sought an increase in her settlement upon the basis that she had abandoned her teaching career to be looked after her millionaire husband, Dr James MacFarlane, aged 74. She claimed that after her divorce she had ended up working as a supply teacher instead of working as a head teacher earning over £100,000 a year with a valuable teacher’s pension. Mrs MacFarlane had been working as an acting head teacher when she met Dr MacFarlane, a semi-retired GP in 2003. She sold her own home in order to buy a half-share in the doctor’s house and asserted that she gave up a promising teaching career whilst still in her 40s, when her new husband assured her that he would look after them both. They enjoyed a lifestyle “substantially better than that of a comfortable middle class couple”.
At the Court of Appeal, her barrister, Paul Isaac, said that it was wrong that Dr MacFarlane would not be compensating her for her years off the career ladder. Mrs MacFarlane’s lawyers also stated that her standard of accommodation was far removed from that which she had enjoyed during the marriage. The judge at first instance had decided that all Mrs MacFarlane needed in order to buy a house was £450,000, but she had wanted considerably more. Dr MacFarlane’s barrister told the Court of Appeal her case was “why should I be relegated to a house that is far inferior to that which I lived in during the marriage and that which I had before the marriage?”.
The court heard that Mrs MacFarlane had been independent with a good income before the marriage and lived in a large house of her own with stables and two acres of ground worth over £650,000. At the Court of Appeal Mrs MacFarlane sought a housing fund of £700,000. While the judge at first instance had rejected her claim to compensation for her lost career upon the basis that it had been a mutual decision made between the parties and evidence of what she would have been earning now if she had stayed in her teaching job was unclear.
Mrs MacFarlane lost her appeal in the Court of Appeal upon the basis that the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage was only a guide when it came to how much an ex-wife or husband deserves. Mr Justice Moylan said he did not agree that need should be at a similar level or comparable to the standard of living during the marriage as this standard was only one of many factors for the court to consider.