THE Court of Appeal recently upheld a decision ordering a Husband to pay ALL of his UK assets to his ex-wife.

The case Enas & Aly has been widely reported in the media as being another example of ex-wives getting multi-million pound settlements through the Family Court. In reality, these are highly unusual cases and the outcomes do not apply in the majority of cases.

In the recent case, the Husband, Dr Aly, aged 54, was an anaesthetist based in Burton-on-Trent. The wife, Dr Enas, aged 46, was a GP based in Derby. The couple married in 2002 and had a son and a daughter, before separating in 2011. The husband moved to Bahrain the following year. He started a relationship with another woman, underwent an Islamic marriage ceremony and had another child.

In court proceedings last year, the wife complained that she had received no support from the husband since he left Britain. Her case was that he had effectively ‘washed his hands’ of her and the children. By moving to Bahrain, he had placed himself out of reach of the Child Support Agency and the British courts.

The judge at first instance agreed with that assessment and awarded her all of the capital, including the proceeds of their £250,000 home in Burton and £310,000 held in bank accounts.

On appeal, Lord Justice Mcfarlane said: “Looking to the future, there was no expectation that she could look to him for any payment of maintenance and it was therefore necessary for her to achieve an award representing effectively most of the capital assets.”

Lord Justice McCombe said: “What was the judge (at first instance) supposed to do, faced with a serial defaulter, to make proper provision for his family? The wife is looking after the children and the father has washed his hands of them.”

Lord Justice McFarlane added: “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.”

The award was considered reasonable as the wife needed the funds “to house herself in appropriate accommodation and make provision for these children”.

The case has caught the media’s attention because of the unusual departure from equality. However it should also draw our attention to the problems of enforcing court orders.

A court order can set out what one spouse has to pay to the other. However, many ex-spouses choose to ignore the court order and it can often seem that the court is unable or unwilling to do much about it. The most draconian order which the English court can make to compel an ex-spouse to pay is to send them to prison for a short period. However, this is very rare.

The recent case hopefully sends a strong warning to spouses who try to evade the court’s jurisdiction.