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Work v Gray ‘special contribution’ case – Toby Atkinson article is published in The Times

16 February 2017

The Royal Courst of JusticeAn article by Stewarts Divorce and Family partner Toby Atkinson about the Court of Appeal case involving the divorce of investor Randy Work has been published in The Times.

Lawyers for Randy Work, the multi-millionaire American financier, argued that his performance as an investor was so exceptional that the usual principle of dividing assets equally on divorce should not apply, thereby seeking to overturn a High Court order awarding his wife half of his £140m fortune. In the article, Toby explains how the controversial principle of 'special contribution' has arisen.

Since 2000, divorcing couples in 'big-money' cases have employed a multitude of innovative arguments to persuade judges to find reason to depart from equality in their favour. The special contribution argument first came about in 2001 when a husband, Mr Cowan, successfully argued that his contribution to the family finances through his pioneering bin liner business was so extraordinary that he should receive 62% of the assets. This led to numerous cases where the special contribution argument was advanced (usually by the husband), but its scope has been limited in a number of cases to 'wholly exceptional circumstances' to avoid possible discrimination to the homemaker.

Toby examines the key case-law governing this area and raises this important question: "Can a special contribution be only financial in nature?"

Work v Gray was heard in the Court of Appeal in early February 2017 and judgment from the Court of Appeal is currently awaited. Whether Mr Work is able to join the small group of husbands who have run the 'special contribution' argument successfully remains to be seen.

Toby's article was published in The Times on 16 February 2017. The full article can be read here (subscription required).

Toby Atkinson, Partner, Stewarts LawToby Atkinson is a Partner in our Divorce and Family team. He specialises in a broad range of family law issues arising on the breakdown of marriage or cohabitation, with a particular emphasis on the financial claims that arise on divorce. He is experienced in dealing with international cases often involving trusts, family businesses and tracing assets.

Toby was recently listed as one of the "Top 50 Family Lawyers in London" by Spear's Wealth Magazine 2016, which described him as "unflappable" and "a sage family lawyer respected by peers for his client skills, work ethic and good judgment". Toby was also named in Citywealth's Leaders List 2016, which described him as "fantastic with clients and a great tactician. He is equally adept at litigating outcomes in difficult cases as he is in negotiating bespoke solutions. I am quite sure he will be one of the industry leaders for years to come."

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