Mother-of-three living on benefits set to go from rags to riches after judge hands her £1.3million family home and luxury villa in Turkey in divorce battle 

  • Ellen and Stephen Debruin divorced in 2010 after 20 years of marriage
  • Mother-of-three was forced to start claiming benefit payments after split 
  • Divorce judge ruled in 2013 that Mrs Debruin should be given properties
  • Also handed endowment worth £16,000 and £800-a-month in maintenance
  • But assets have not been transferred as Mr Debruin is contesting ruling

A mother-of-three who is living on benefits is set to go from rags to riches after she was handed her £1.3million family home and Turkish holiday villa in a divorce battle.

Ellen Debruin, 51, started claiming benefits when she split from 45-year-old Stephen Debruin, an international haulage contractor, in 2010, Appeal Court judges were told.

In 2013 a judge ruled Mrs Debruin should be given the two properties as well as an endowment worth £16,000. Mr Debruin was also ordered to pay £800 in monthly maintenance.

But Mrs Debruin has yet to receive any of the assets as her former husband has contested the ruling was 'grossly unequal'. They will not be transferred for the duration of his appeal.

Battle: Ellen Debruin, 51, started claiming benefits when she split from Stephen Debruin, 45, an international haulage contractor, in 2010. Above, the former couple pictured outside London's Appeal Court today

This means that Mrs Debruin is able to continue collecting payments - including child benefit, child tax credit and income support - until a decision is made.

Today, a lawyer for Mr Debruin told the Appeal Court in London that the ruling was unfair and had failed to take into account his ex-wife's potential to earn a wage.

He added that Mrs Debruin, who continues to live in the former marital home in Hornchurch, Essex, has a pension worth £70,000 while Mr Debruin does not have one. 

The couple married in 1992 and had three sons, now aged 14, 16 and 20, together before the relationship collapsed. Mrs Debruin was plunged into depression by the split, the court heard. 

A divorce judged ruled that Mrs Debruin should be given ownership over their five-bedroom home in Hornchurch, Essex, as well as 'Villa Debruin' - their holiday home in Turkey. 

She was also handed the endowment policy, while Mr Debruin was ordered to make maintenance payments indefinitely. 

Ruling: A judge ruled Mrs Debruin should be given the £1.3million home in Essex, pictured, their holiday villa in Turkey and an endowment worth £16,000. Mr Debruin also ordered to pay £800-a-month in maintenance

Mark Emmanuel, representing Mr Debruin, told Lords Justice Longmore, Ryder and Briggs today that the division of the marital assets was 'grossly unequal'.

'The husband's share was worth £97,000. He claimed debts of £126,000,' he told the court.

'The judge did not make any findings that the husband has undisclosed assets, whether specifically or by drawing adverse inferences.

'Such a grossly unequal distribution was not explained and is therefore plainly wrong.

'The judge awarded the wife the former matrimonial home, a holiday villa in turkey, an endowment policy worth £16,000. 

Benefits: Mrs Debruin, pictured, receives child benefit, child tax credit and income support

'The wife has no liabilities and has a pension worth £70,000. The husband had no pension,' Mr Emmanuel added.

The barrister complained that the judge failed to consider whether Mrs Debruin would be able to earn a living of her own in the future.

'The husband was also ordered to make periodical payments of £800-a-month to the wife, without any findings as to his income, or income needs, or the wife's earning capacity. 

'No term was imposed,' he told the court.

Mr Emmanuel added that, under the judge's order, 'the husband was left with his half share in two industrial units in Rainham, Essex' from 20 years of work and marriage.

The court also heard arguments that the judge had no right to include the former matrimonial home as part of the 'pot' for division between the warring ex-couple.

That was because the house had been transferred to a Lichtenstein-based company and trust in 1999, 'for tax reasons', the judges were told.

Christopher Wagstaffe, representing the two overseas entities, argued the divorce judge was wrong to reach behind the corporate veil. 

After hearing the arguments, the judges opened the way for Mr Debruin to mount a challenge to the division of assets in the High Court Family Division. 

His case will now be heard by a senior family judge at a later date.

Mrs Debruin was also ordered to pay £40,000 towards her ex-husband's legal costs, although that order will not, for the moment, be enforced.

Emphasising that her finances remain extremely tight, her counsel, Ian Robbins, said: 'She is not in employment; she is on benefits'.

Outside court, Mrs Debruin's lawyers said that her benefits had not been affected by the orders for maintenance and division of property, as they could not be enforced pending the outcome of her ex-husband's appeal.

They confirmed that Mrs Debruin 'is in receipt of a number of benefits, including child benefit, child tax credit and income support' and that 'she obtained them post-separation.'

In his 2013 ruling, splitting the assets of the marriage, Deputy District Judge Parker detailed the emotional toll the divorce had had on both husband and wife.

'The wife has been suffering from depression as a consequence of the breakdown of her marriage to Mr Debruin and these proceedings,' he said.

Mr Debruin was also 'somewhat distressed and in a difficult position in terms of his own life, having had a number of breakdowns'. 

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