The High Court has lifted an order preventing the surrender of a vintage Bentley motor car in ongoing divorce proceedings.
In Joy v Joy, the car, owned by the husband, was kept at his home in the south of France. During divorce proceedings, the husband was ordered to surrender the car so it could be transported to England to await further financial orders as the divorce progressed. These included an order for legal costs in favour of his wife.
The car had been pledged to his solicitors against his liability for the costs. In addition, a financial trust which had lent money to the husband had applied to a French court for a separate order in relation to the valuable vehicle.
However, the husband applied for a stay [postponement] of this order before the divorce proceedings could continue. At a hearing in March, Lord Justice Patten granted this temporary postponement. He explained:
“..rather than attempting to decide the issue of permission to appeal, which, on the papers before me, was not possible, and in order to avoid unnecessary interim hearings on the issue of permission, I granted the stay but directed that the husband’s application for permission to appeal against the judge’s order for delivery up should be heard expeditiously (and I said in my order “as expeditiously as possible”) at a rolled up hearing at which the court would consider not only whether permission should be granted, but if permission were granted or is to be granted, would then proceed immediately to hear the appeal.”
Later the same month, the judge was asked to consider whether the stay should stay in place. He declared:
“For the wife, it is said that there are really two important questions to consider. One is that if the English stay remains in place it will be much more difficult for her to argue successfully in France that the French [order] should be lifted for the simple reason that the English court is not, as things stand, requiring the immediate removal of the car to England. Secondly, she says that there is on the evidence a history by the husband of non compliance with orders of the court, and that if the car is allowed to remain, even assuming it can be freed from the French order at the husband’s home in France, there is, to put it mildly, a significant risk that the husband will physically remove the car to some other inconvenient jurisdiction where it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the English court’s order to be enforced.”
The husband countered by saying that there was no evidence he would remove the vehicle and argued that the car should remain at his home in the south of France for the time being.
However, Lord Justice Patten agreed with the wife’s claim, saying:
“I think I am entitled to take the view, and indeed should take the view, that this court should not make an order which makes it more difficult and perhaps impossible for the car to be freed from the unexpected order of the French court that has occurred in the interim period. For that reason alone, and having regard to the fact that, in my view, no serious prejudice will be caused to the husband or any other interested parties if the stay is lifted and the car is removed to England under the control of the court, I propose to lift the stay”