Current Affairs

Multi-million pound ‘gay divorce’ tests civil partnership law

Stephen Gray March 9, 2012
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A case at the Court of Appeal over the splitting of a gay couple’s £4 million assets has made headlines due to the couple’s differing financial situations.

Peter Lawrence, 47, and Don Gallagher, 54, had been together for eleven years but dissolved their civil partnership after seven months, The Times reports.

Mr Lawrence is paid nearly £400,000 a year in his role as a City analyst but Mr Gallagher had earned less over his career as a stage actor.

A lower court told the couple Mr Gallagher was entitled to £1.7 million in the dissolution of the partnership, most of which would come from the value of their central London flat.

Mr Lawrence is now appealing the case, claiming the flat should not be included in the settlement.

A barrister had argued on Mr Lawrence’s behalf that the flat he bought in London’s Bankside, which was worth £650,000 when they met and has since soared in value to £2.4 million, should not be treated as a shared asset.

Patrick Chamberlayne QC told the court: “This was of course a civil partnership rather than a marriage and although exactly the same principles apply, it is a simple truth that in homosexual relationships it is more likely that the couple will not have children, and that they will therefore each continue to pursue their careers throughout the partnership, as they did before.”

He called it “bizarre” and “flawed” to include the home Mr Lawrence had bought before they met in the division of assets.

Mr Gallagher’s lawyer said that, while his client had joined the relationship in the late 1990s with no more than £40,000 of his own assets, he had performed a “major domestic and home-making role” in the relationship.

Representing the actor, who has appeared in episodes of Taggart, Birds of a Feather and Casualty, Tim Bishop QC said of the proposal to only split the other assets: “It would not be done to a spouse, so it should not be done to a civil partner.”

According to The Times, the actor “helped create and maintain a lovely home in the flat in various ways, soft furnishings, planting on balconies, improvement of layout and fixtures, redecoration”.

Mr Gallagher had recently landed a role on the stage production Priscilla Queen of the Desert and was said to earn £100,000 through his acting engagements and the couple had bought a country cottage together that the court heard is now worth £900,000.

Without including the flat in the assets to be split, Mr Gallagher would be entitled to around £620,000. A decision by the Court of Appeal judges is expected later this year.

More: Civil partnerships, dissolution, divorce, Law

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