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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 May 2007, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
Court upholds 48m divorce award
John and Beverley Charman
John and Beverley Charman began divorce proceedings in 2004
A millionaire businessman has lost an appeal over a 48m divorce award made to his former wife.

John Charman, 54, who lives in Bermuda, had gone to the Court of Appeal over the payment made to Beverley Charman, 53, from Sevenoaks, Kent.

It means the biggest divorce award in British legal history stands, but Mr Charman has signalled that he intends to appeal again to the House of Lords.

He claims last August's original judgment was "unfair and unreasonable".

Mr Charman has argued that an offer he made to his wife of 20m was more than enough - because she had been "a housewife" and he had played a bigger role in amassing a 131m family fortune.

'Muddled and incomprehensible'

But the Appeal Court ruled on Thursday that his contribution had been properly taken into account when the award was originally made by the High Court last year.

Sir Mark Potter, president of the High Court Family Division, said: "Neither in its method nor in its result do we regard the judge's treatment of the husband's special contribution as vulnerable to appeal."

In their ruling, the appeal judges made a call for the review and reform of divorce laws in England and Wales.

The breakdown of our marriage has been a painful experience for all concerned
Beverley Charman

Mr Charman said after his court defeat: "I intend to appeal against this decision which I genuinely believe is wrong.

"English family law is in a mess. It's muddled and incomprehensible and lags behind that in most other countries.

"My offer to my former wife was an enormous sum... she could live off the interest for the rest of her life without even touching the capital.

"Why is it right that I should have to destabilise my business and career to provide her with a great deal more money?"

Mr Charman was refused permission to appeal, but can apply to the Law Lords directly.

The 48m payment is on hold pending the outcome of any further appeal.

Breadwinner-homemaker argument

A statement read by Mrs Charman's legal team said: "I acknowledge that the sum awarded to me is huge by any standards, but the Court of Appeal has decided that it fairly reflects the contributions made by John and me during our 28-year marriage.

"The breakdown of our marriage has been a painful experience for all concerned.

Mrs Charman's house in Sevenoaks

"I have been particularly concerned for our sons who have had to bear the discussion in public of our lives, our marriage and our divorce."

The couple had two sons during their marriage, which began in 1976 when neither had much money.

Mr Charman built up a fortune in the insurance industry and became head of the Axis group.

But when the appeal case was heard in March this year, lawyers for Mrs Charman argued that her contribution could be seen as being of "equal value to the family as a whole".

They said that previous divorce rulings made by the House of Lords had laid down guidelines that family assets should generally be divided equally between the breadwinner and the homemaker.

Just days after the end of the hearing, Mrs Charman was tied up and robbed by a balaclava-clad gunman who broke into her 2.75m home in Kent.


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