The former wife of a British army officer has failed in her bid to make a second financial claim from her ex-husband.
In M v W, she had married her ex-husband in 1987 while both were living in Cheshire, and the couple went on to have three children, all now adults. In 2001 the family relocated to New Zealand.
The couple separated in 2008 and reached a financial settlement the following year. In 2010, the couple’s divorce reached the decree nisi stage, ending a 20 year marriage.
Shortly afterwards, the wife returned to Britain.
In July last year, on the basis of a number of claims, the wife was granted permission to apply for a new financial claim under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984. This states:
“Applications for financial relief after overseas divorce etc.
(a)a marriage has been dissolved or annulled, or the parties to a marriage have been legally separated, by means of judicial or other proceedings in an overseas country, and
(b)the divorce, annulment or legal separation is entitled to be recognised as valid in England and Wales,
either party to the marriage may apply to the court in the manner prescribed by rules of court for an order for financial relief under this Part of this Act.”
The husband meanwhile applied to have the permission set aside.
At the High Court, Mr Justice Coleridge explained:
“The husband’s essential argument is that this a classic “second bite of the cherry” case. His argument is that all the wife’s claims at the time of the parties divorce were fully and fairly dealt with in New Zealand, entirely properly according to New Zealand practice and law and the wife, having spent the full share which she received at the time, should not now be able to come back in this jurisdiction and have another go.”
The wife, by contrast, insisted that:
“she was not dealt with fairly in New Zealand and now finds herself in this country very short of financial resources.”
After examining the nature of the couple’s financial settlement, Mr Justice Coleridge said:
“The New Zealand agreement was as full and fair and final as it was possible to provide for in New Zealand. Both sides had full legal advice and, as acknowledged at the foot of the agreement, both had the agreement fully explained to them at the time of the signing. The agreement was in effect a notarised one.”
“The three bases upon which she proceeds here seem to me very lacking in merit. She complains about the methodology for the calculation of the value of the pensions. However, the evidence is clear that the methodology employed was the methodology always employed in the New Zealand court and cases….
The wife’s second ground, that she was under pressure is, it seems to me, not established when I look at the correspondence in the papers. If anyone was pressing to conclude matters it was the wife via her own lawyers.
Finally the points made about non-disclosure again seem to me to be virtually unarguable, given the clear terms of [the] agreement and the fact that she was fully represented at all times by competent specialist lawyers.”
“Accordingly the wife is forced back on to the simple point that she is now in straitened financial circumstances. It is at this point that she has to confront head on the “second bite of the cherry” argument. However much sympathy I have with the wife, to allow her to proceed in these circumstances would put her in a very much better position than an English wife in comparable circumstances. If a final order had been made in this jurisdiction along the lines of the order made in New Zealand, it would be incapable of being undermined… simply because a wife had spent her share and needed more.”