Cornick v Cornick (No 2): FD 1995

The court considered an application to vary an ancillary relief award and gave a wife more than the sum set out in the budget in circumstances where she had received a capital sum that, with hindsight, was far too low.
Hale J said: ‘Where such a dramatic change in the comparative wealth of the parties takes place very shortly after a capital settlement in divorce proceedings, it is not surprising that the disadvantaged party should want the settlement set aside in some way. But it is only possible to do this in very limited circumstances and it is important not to allow ones natural sympathy for the position in which the wife finds herself to colour the application of those principles to the facts of the particular case.’ and ‘There are three possible interpretations of a situation such as this. The first is that it is simply a change in the parties circumstances which has taken place since the order. This would not normally give rise to any case for reopening matters. The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 does not allow for the variation of capital settlements, including lump sum orders save as to instalments. Capital settlements are by their nature intended to be final. They have to be based upon a snapshot taken at the time of trial. The court has to do its best with the evidence available to apply the considerations which the court has, under section 25 of the 1973 Act to take into account at the time. Under section 25(2)(a), these include the assets which each party has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future.’
and ‘On analysis, therefore, there are three possible causes of a difference in the value of assets taken into account at the hearing, each coinciding with one of the three situations mentioned earlier:
(1) An asset which was taken into account and correctly valued at the date of the hearing changes value within a relatively short time owing to natural processes of price fluctuation. The court should not then manipulate the power to grant leave to appeal out of time to provide a disguised power of variation which Parliament has quite obviously and deliberately declined to enact.
(2) A wrong value was put upon that asset at the hearing, which had it been known about at the time would have led to a different order. Provided that it is not the fault of the person alleging the mistake, it is open to the court to give leave for the matter to be reopened. Although falling within the Barder principle it is more akin to the misrepresentation or non-disclosure cases than to Barder itself.,br />(3) Something unforeseen and unforeseeable had happened since the date of the hearing which has altered the value of the assets so dramatically as to bring about a substantial change in the balance of assets brought about by the order. Then, provided that the other three conditions are fulfilled, the Barder principle may apply. However, the circumstances in which this can happen are very few and far between. The case-law, taken as a whole, does not suggest that the natural processes of price fluctuation, whether in houses, shares or any other property, and however dramatic, fall within this principle.
In my judgment this case clearly falls within the first category. There was no misevaluation or mistake at the trial. Nothing has happened since then other than a natural albeit dramatic change in the value of the husband’s shareholding. The wife’s case amounts in effect to saying that it is all terribly unfair.’

Hale J
[1995] 2 FLR 490
England and Wales
See AlsoCornick v Cornick (No 1) FD 1994
. .

Cited by:
Appeal fromCornick v Cornick (No 2) CA 2-Jan-1995
The court considered the boundary of its power in ordering periodical payments: ‘I do not believe that Hale J erred in her approach in principle to this case, and I reject the submission which Mr Mostyn has made that there was a delimiting factor . .
CitedM v M (Financial Relief: Substantial Earning Capacity) FD 29-Mar-2004
The parties had been married for 12 years, there were three children, one with special needs, and assets of over 12 million pounds. The court considered the application for ancillary relief. It was substantially agreed that the wife should receive . .
CitedMyerson v Myerson (No 2) CA 1-Apr-2009
The couple had compromised a very substantial ancillary relief claim on divorce, but the husband now said that the value of the shareholdings from which payment was to be made had collapsed.
Held: His appeal was dismissed. The principles for . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 06 December 2021; Ref: scu.244875