The divorce of millionaire engineering tycoon, Richard Shield and his wife of 43 years, Susan, has rung up a £700,000 legal bill even before the case has gone to court, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Mrs Shield, 69, launched divorce proceedings against her husband, starting a bitter row over claims that the business man had financially favoured their son over her and their three daughters.
The businessman had amassed his huge fortune through his engineering business and property portfolio. His wife owns five per cent of the overall enterprise.
A High Court judge said he was filled with “nothing but despair” as he prepared to hear the details of an “extremely tragic” divorce case.
“This family appears to be tearing itself apart and it fills the sympathetic but detached observer such as myself with nothing but despair,” said Mr Justice Holman during a pre-trial hearing at London’s High Court.
A preliminary aspect of the “awful conflict” is whether the couple’s riches are held in trust for their 35-year-old son, Christopher Shield, he added.
“There appears to be an intense conflict within the family in relation to certain dispositions which were, or may have been, made some years ago by the husband, and which may appear to have favoured the son in preference to the daughters and to the disadvantage of the wife,” he said.
A decree absolute to end the couple’s marriage of more than four decades has yet to be made.
The judge said Mr Shield, who had previously been “compulsorily detained” due to his psychiatric problems, was now living in the former matrimonial home while his wife was “having to live with one of their daughters”.
“It is clearly a fundamental part of the background to recent events that the husband has been both physically and mentally unwell. Therein lies a significant element of the tragedy,” he added.
The court heard that doubts remain over whether Mr Shield’s currently has the legal “capacity” to make important decisions for himself and the judge directed that his condition be further assessed by a psychiatrist.
Mr Justice Holman said: “I have been faced with a situation that is, frankly, extremely tragic and appears unedifying. After a marriage of no less than 43 years, a wife has felt constrained to petition for divorce from her husband.”
“I have to say, as I leave this very long day, that I do so with a feeling of the utmost despair that this family could have spent three quarters of a million pounds just to get to this stage. They are likely to spend some hundreds of thousands of pounds in preparation for, and at the hearing of, the preliminary issue, and even that is only the preliminary issue.”