A husband has failed in his bid to appeal a divorce with a “complex and highly unusual history”.
Mark Howell had sought permission to appeal a ruling that his marriage had “irretrievably broken down” by Judge Horowitz QC last December. Mr Howell and his former wife Nalini married in 2003 and had one child together before separating in 2010.
She subsequently filed a divorce petition which was described during the proceedings as “old fashioned in the weight of the allegations that were being made, rather than more moderate modern ones”.
The case was set to go to court as a ‘defended divorce’. A compromise which would have seen the wife’s original divorce petition set aside and replaced with a more conventional petition on the grounds of separation fell through because the husband would not agree to it.
The wife was therefore given permission to file a second, more concise divorce petition and this went to trial in December last year. Mr Howell asked to postpone the divorce proceedings, claiming the marriage “had not irretrievably broken down.”
Judge Horowitz found in favour of the wife, concluding that the marriage had indeed broken down and that the wife had proved her case. He made an order for costs and also introduced a 12 months legal order, a “carefully expressed restraint” forbidding “harassment” for 12 months. This referred to phone calls made to Mrs Howell.
He declared in his judgement:
“…Mr Howell, who is a very intelligent and clear-thinking man, has been given abundant opportunity, it seems to me, to take one or two remedies. The first and direct is the civilised one of a two year separation and consent divorce and the other, as is commonly done, is to say, ‘I agree in principle but please remove those objectionable passages.’ He has done neither.”
Mr Howell sought permission to appeal but this was refused by Lord Justice Thorpe, who declared that all the principle matters in the hearing were matters for the original judge to assess and it was “inconceivable” that the Court of Appeal should interfere. He noted that:
“…the wife’s case was being put at a minimum to satisfy the legal test, to save the husband from assertions that might appear gratuitous or unkind.”
In a concise judgement, Lord Justice Thorpe also declared:
“Mr Howell, as the judge remarked, is a man of considerable intelligence and he has put together an impeccable bundle to enable these applications to be considered. He has advanced his case, albeit persistently, with courtesy, and I thank him for that. But sad as it seems to me to be, this couple have spent far more energy and wasted far more money than was ever necessary. Had there been a more realistic assessment of where they stood and how to bring their failed marriage to an end, the case would not have come twice to this court.”