A Saudi man who racked up a legal bill of £490,000 has had his appeal for a higher financial award rejected.
In Alyami v Mussallam, the Saudi-born man and wife married in 1998 and had three children before their divorce in 2009, during which time they established habitual residence in the UK.
A lengthy divorce resulted in the costs soaring despite the husband being “a man not just of limited means, but a man of no means”.
The litigation was complicated by the fact that his wife was petitioned for divorce back in Saudi Arabia and he launched proceedings in the UK.
The man had originally sought a housing provision to enable him to keep contact with his children, periodical payments in order to maintain the property and a lump sum to extinguish his liability to his solicitors.
Despite the man receiving a cost allowance of roughly £104,000 and being able to pay approximately £61,000 from his own resources, he still had an outstanding legal bill of £324,260.
Lord Justice Thorpe stated that this situation should never have arisen in the first place:
“The ordinary rule of trade between solicitors and clients is that they either pay the costs up front or they secure by charge against some asset or alternatively against their confident expectation of the judge’s liberality when he comes to divide family assets. The costs incurred in this case are quite disproportionate to the essential issues that had to be decided if they could not be agreed.”
In the initial ruling, the man was awarded just £50,000 instead of £320,000.
In the Appeals Court, Lord Justice Thorpe found the argument that would have led the judge to award the man any higher amount to be “to put it mildly, unpersuasive” and ruled the appeal to be “quite without merit”.
Lord Justice Patten agreed with the dismissal of the appeal, saying he could “see no error of principle disclosed in the way in which [the original judge] dealt with these issues”.