Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have filed for divorce, bringing an end to "Kimye"

3rd March 2021 Family Law

Kim Kardashian has once again hit the headlines. This time, sadly, it is not for a new line of underwear, or tips on how to get the perfect posterior, but because she has filed for divorce from her husband, the renowned rapper Kanye West. 

The couple, often referred to as Kimye, have been married for almost seven years and have four children together, North, Chicago, Saint, and Psalm. Although the detailed reasons for Kim’s filing for divorce have not been confirmed, it is rumoured that Kayne’s mental health struggles played a part in the breakdown of the marriage, and the couple have in fact been living apart for some time.

Anyone watching an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians, a reality, fly on the wall, TV series that follows the Kardashian family, and gives a glimpse into Kimye’s lives, can see the family enjoys the ‘high life’, made up of fast cars, lavish shopping trips, and extravagant and exotic holidays. 

Both Kim and Kanye have each financially contributed to the family; Forbes Rich List estimated Kim Kardashian to be worth $780 million, and Kanye worth $1.3 billion.

So what special considerations, if any, would the court need to apply when divorcing couples of extraordinary wealth wish to settle their finances?

As in all other financial remedy cases, the English court must apply the principle of fairness in ‘big money’ cases, but unlike average divorcing spouses, other special considerations may need to be considered. 

Special Contributions 

Under section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, the English Court has a duty to consider what contributions each of the parties have made to the marriage. This includes the contribution that each party has ‘made or is likely in the foreseeable future to make to the welfare of the family, including any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family’. 

In instances such as Kimye’s divorce, neither of the couple has chosen to stay at home and look after the children whilst the other goes out to work and is the sole breadwinner. In ‘big money’ cases such as these, the focus of contribution tends to shift to the financial contributions that each of the parties have made, whether that contribution can be considered a ‘special contribution’. In cases where a special contribution is argued, the English court is asked to depart from the principle of equality and consider whether either party has made a special financial contribution to the marriage, and therefore, whether they should be awarded a larger share of the matrimonial assets.

Historically, the argument of ‘special contributions’ have rarely been successful, and it is only in extremely exceptional circumstances, where the assets have exceeded £10 million +, that a case of ‘special contribution’ can be run. 

Asset Structure

The structure of assets in big money cases, and how they are held can often require special consideration with many of the matrimonial assets being tied up in complex business or trust structures. If one party to the proceedings has had access to a trust fund during the marriage, disputes may arise as to whether the trust’s assets form part of the matrimonial pot and whether they are subject for division. Special consideration will need to be given as to the structure of a trust, looking at whether, amongst other things, the trust is under the control of a third party or has been set up for a particular purpose. 

In some instances, assets can be held in complex business structures, on or off shore, and held within complex shareholdings, which need to be unravelled to ascertain the value of a party’s share. In such instances it may be necessary to instruct a financial expert to unpick the complex business structure, and use various valuation calculations and methods to determine the value of the company or an individual’s shareholding.   

Needs

When looking at a fair financial settlement, the court will look at the needs of the parties, i.e. their housing and financial needs. In cases involving ‘big money’ where the family has enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle, above that of the average or ordinary family, the court will generally approach their needs more generously with the ‘need’ to have regular trips to the hairdressers, manicurist and Milan’s shopping district considered if resources allow. 

In cases such as these, it is apparent that ‘needs’ takes on another meaning and the discretionary exercise in assessing what one party shall be entitled to have is determined by a number of factors including the age of the parties, their health, the standard of living during the marriage, the length of the marriage, age of children (if any), and the extent of wealth.  

Inheritance

In some ‘big money’ cases a family’s wealth may be generational, with it being passed down from one party’s ancestors. In such instances, the English court may conclude the asset or assets as non –matrimonial and in which case it will either be excluded from the matrimonial pot altogether or its division will depart from the yardstick of equality when dividing it between the parties.   

Whilst we can't say for certain at this point how the assets or child arrangements will be split between Kim and Kanye, we do know that Kim has hired expert representation in the form of one of Hollywood's most sought after divorce lawyers. We also know that the couple did have a prenuptial agreement in place, which will set out how the couple intend on managing their assets on divorce and could go a long way in smoothing over the transition phase from a married couple to co-parents. 

If you are going through your own separation, child arrangements or are considering writing up a pre- or postnuptial agreement get in touch for an initial consultation by calling us on 0345 872 6666, or by completing our online contact form so we can call back at a time that is convenient for you.

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Grace Matthews is an Associate Solicitor located in Manchesterin our Family department

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