A “vindictive” husband who caused an "unnecessary haemorrhage of money" by pursuing unnecessary legal action has had his divorce settlement slashed by the courts.
The case involved a couple who had married in 2005 and separated in highly acrimonious circumstances in 2016. They had two children, aged 13 and 19. During their relationship they had built up a successful business.
During divorce proceedings, the wife gave evidence about the number of ways in which the husband's conduct had impacted adversely on the financial circumstances of the family, including dissipation of assets and refusal to participate appropriately with the proceedings.
The judge found that the husband's conduct since the breakdown of the marriage had been vindictive and irrational. The litigation he caused had been on a massive, destructive scale and there was no likelihood that he would provide for the wife or children if the business was transferred to him.
The wife was awarded property transfers and a lump sum, giving her assets worth £802,061, in addition to the business, which was worth £1.73 million. The husband received assets worth £634,000.
The Court of Appeal upheld that decision.
It said the judge had made clear that the matrimonial assets had been very significantly depleted as a result of the husband's conduct, which had caused an "unnecessary haemorrhage of money" through litigation costs.
A critical factor was the judge's conclusion as to the children's needs, including that it was "plainly" in their interests to remain in their current schools
The judge had been entitled to take the husband's litigation conduct into account. The parties had spent at least £800,000, of which £600,000 was excessive. The amount spent on legal costs would have been a modest fraction of that but for the husband's conduct.
The disparity in outcome could be justified. It would have been substantially smaller if there had been a further £600,000 or more in available resources.
Further, the burden of maintaining the children was likely to be met by the wife.
Finally, the judge had been entitled to conclude that the amount allocated to the husband was a just proportion of the assets and was sufficient to meet his needs at a level which was fair to him.
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Case Citations:  EWCA Civ 1215TT v CDS (2020), CA (Civ Div) (Patten LJ, Moylan LJ, Newey LJ)
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