Two divorced men have gone to the highest court over rulings that a parting couple's assets should be split evenly unless there are exceptional circumstances. Both cases involve divorces in which the wives won much larger settlements after appealing against the amounts they were initially awarded. A lawyer for one of the men argued in the Court of Final Appeal yesterday that it was unfair and against Hong Kong practice to rule, as the Court of Appeal did in 2008, that a 50-50 split should be the starting point. That ruling moved away from the previous practice of apportioning the assets based on the 'reasonable requirements' of each party. Until then, Hong Kong's marital laws, though very similar to those in England and Wales, had not yet adopted a landmark House of Lords ruling in 2000 that decided that the starting position in a divorce was an equal division of assets. 'If we start with 50:50, that, we say, is likely in many cases to lead to injustice,' said David Pilbrow SC for one of the men. 'The problem with equal sharing is it leads to regular unfairness. 'If there is a man who goes from rags to riches, and the woman, who only looks after her mahjong and shopping, gets equal assets, is it fair?' The duty of the court was first to assess the couple's assets, then each party's needs, he said. If the courts were given a guideline of 50:50 as the principle by which to split assets, they would not have to think any further, he said. The principle English courts followed had not procured the fairness intended, he said. Hong Kong was distinct from England and its thinking did not reflect that of England. The earlier appeals involving the two couples were heard together. In one of the cases, the couple married in 1996, then divorced in 2002. The court initially awarded the wife HK$1.55 million, one-third of her husband's assets. When she appealed, the Court of Appeal awarded her $2.68 million, half of her and her husband's combined assets. In the other case, the couple met in 1985, married in 1997 and divorced in 2004. The wife was initially awarded HK$7.7 million but on appeal the court granted her HK$36 million. Before the ruling that assets should be split evenly, Hong Kong courts assessed the spouses' 'reasonable requirements' and then divided the assets accordingly. They then awarded what was left to the breadwinner, usually the husband. But the Court of Appeal decided society's view of marriage had changed and the approach was outdated. It ruled that the starting point should be equality unless there was a good reason to depart from it. 'On marriage, the parties commit to sharing their lives. It is a partnership of equals,' Mr Justice Peter Cheung Chak-yau said in the judgment. Even if one of the couple decided to stay home while the other worked, their contributions should be regarded as equal. Arguing separately for the husband in the second case, Benjamin Yu SC raised the question of the length of a marriage in deciding how to apportion assets. Referring to an affidavit of the wife in the case, Yu said the couple had not been married when they lived together at university, nor had they been financially independent of their families at the time. The wife said that they later parted ways to different countries and had a volatile relationship. The hearing continues before Mr Justice Kemal Bokhary, Mr Justice Patrick Chan Siu-oi, Mr Justice Roberto Ribeiro, Mr Justice Michael Hartmann and Lord Justice Neuberger.