Millionaire fruit farmer cannot use Brexit as an excuse to keep more of his £30m fortune from his ex-wife, judge says

Paul Mansfield, 56, was ordered to hand over £12.2million to his former wife of 26 years, Jane, by a judge last year - Paul Keogh

A millionaire fruit farmer cannot use Brexit as an excuse to keep more of his estimated £30million family fortune from his ex-wife, a judge has said.

Paul Mansfield, 56, was ordered to hand over £12.2million to his former wife of 26 years, Jane, by a judge last year.

On Tuesday, in a hearing at the Court of Appeal, he said he should be able to challenge the size of the payout because the award took no account of the impact of Brexit on his premium fruit farming business.

He also said it was wrong that his ex-wife should benefit from the part of the family fortune which came from gifts and inheritances from his dad, Buddy.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice Moylan said the argument about Brexit would not be likely to succeed on appeal and refused permission for it to go forward.

But Mr Mansfield's claims about his father's contribution to the success of the family business were "arguable", he said as he added that the ground of appeal on that basis had "sufficient prospect of success".

The court had heard the couple married in 1988 and had two children, living first in London, but then moving to Buddy Mansfield's farm, near Canterbury, in 1996.

Jane Mansfield outside the court Credit:  Paul Keogh

Mr Mansfield Snr had formed his farming business in the 1960s, but by the time of his death in 2011, it was in his son's hands and worth millions.

Its value was mainly in the more than 2,000 acres of land it comprises at Broad Oak Farm, together with a cold storage and packing operation.

After their separation, Mr Mansfield moved out, leaving his wife at the farmhouse at Broad Oak Farm with the children.

He offered her £6m to settle their divorce, but she refused and the case went to the High Court in November 2015.

However, almost a year passed before family judge, Mrs Justice Parker, delivered her final ruling and ordered the £12.2m be paid.

In that time, the country had voted in the referendum in June last year, but the impact on the family coffers of Brexit was not known.

Challenging the payout, lawyers for Mr Mansfield said the delay in the judgment being given meant the impact of Brexit had not been taken into account.

He had asked for the chance to tackle the issue in a further hearing prior to judgment, but was refused permission by Mrs Justice Parker.

The judge had also gone wrong when assessing what part of the family's fortune should be shared between the couple, he continued.

She had valued the entire business and awarded Mr Mansfield 55 per cent to take account of the input his father had made.

Mr Turner said that was not enough to reflect the "very great" input of Mr Mansfield Snr.

His gifts of four farms had allowed "very substantial wealth" to be brought into the marriage and much of the wealth had been gathered by using the inherited and gifted farms as security to expand the business, he continued.

For Mrs Mansfield, Jonathan Southgate QC said Mr Mansfield Snr's part in the family's success had been "grossly exaggerated", because the business he had run was "comparatively tiny".

"It was the wife's case that it was their hard work over 26 years which created the current business," he said.

They also said the decision to allow an appeal would leave her "life in limbo". "She has been kept out of her share of the assets for far too long already because of delays not of her making," said her barrister.

Putting a brake on orders that sums be paid to Mrs Mansfield in June, the judge said it would not be fair until the full amount is determined for good.

No date was set for the full hearing of Mr Mansfield's appeal.

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