A Court of Appeal decision has underlined the potentially catastrophic consequences of divorcing couples resorting to litigation, rather than compromise, when dividing their assets and making arrangements for the future care of children.
In refusing an ex-wife permission to argue that maintenance she receives from her former husband should be increased, a senior family judge lamented that the ex-couple had ‘wrecked the ship of their marriage’ and spent almost all of their joint wealth on litigation.
The former couple, who lived in a £3.2m home until their divorce in 2008 after 10 years of marriage, were left with just over £90,000 between them after engaging in lengthy litigation. A judge who ruled on ancillary relief proceedings in 2008 had observed: ‘They wrecked the ship then turned their attention to the lifeboats. By 2008 they had spent over £879,000 on legal costs and contested proceedings’.
At the Court of Appeal, the ex-wife’s lawyers argued that the maintenance payments she receives from her ex-husband should be increased from £48,000-a-year to between £66,000 and £80,000-a-year to reflect his improved financial position and substantial increases in his salary since the divorce.
It was submitted that the ex-wife had put her career on hold during the marriage in order to give birth to and raise the couple’s children and that her reasonable needs were not being met by the existing maintenance payments.
Refusing the ex-wife permission to appeal however, Lord Justice McFarlane cited the ex-husband’s continuing responsibility to pay the school fees for the ex-couple’s children, at a cost of £36,000-a-year, and ruled that there was no reasonable prospect of her appeal succeeding.
The judge noted: ‘This is a case where tragically - and I do not think that word is an overstatement - the parties have been engaged in litigation about their finances and children for five or more years.’ He said that the prolonged and extremely costly litigation had been a catastrophe for the family.