High Court extends freezing order in child maintenance dispute

Children|May 6th 2014

A High Court judge has extended a freezing order issued against the assets of a man who has run up more than £74,000 in child maintenance arrears.

Freezing orders prohibit the disposal of financial or other assets under dispute.

In Maughan v Wilmot, the woman had applied for the extension, along with the appointment of an official receiver under the Senior Courts Act 1981 to help recover the arrears. In addition, she asked for along with a ‘civil restraint order’ under the Family Procedure Rules 2010. Civil restraint orders are issued to prevent parties from repeatedly engaging in ‘vexatious litigation’ – legal action issued purely to harass a third party, regardless of its merits.

In addition to maintenance arrears, the man’s legal costs were estimated to exceed £66,000.

He countered his wife’s applications by applying to have the existing freezing order struck out and his ex-wife’s other applications suspended.

Mr Justice Mostyn dismissed the husband’s legal arguments. He had claimed the freezing order exceeded the original judgement, but this claim was meritless said the judge. The man had also alleged that maintenance he had paid was going to his former wife’s solicitors, but there was no evidence for this, said Mr Justice Mostyn. In any case:

“The court does not stand as some kind of policing official as to how child maintenance is deployed.”

The husband had also claimed on a number of occasions that his ex-wife’s legal team were corrupt, claims that had been repeatedly rejected by the courts.

Mr Justice Mostyn told the court:

“…it is clear to me that these allegations are completely baseless. However, I would go further and say that in circumstances where they have already been categorically rejected by the court…it is an abuse for Captain Wilmot to try to reiterate them before me. Therefore, for these reasons his third basis of challenge, as expressed in his application notice, is denied by me and accordingly his application is rejected and I certify it to have been, from first to last, totally without merit.”

He then turned to the wife’s claims.

“Generally speaking, a party would only apply for a receiver to be appointed as a course of last resort for reasons that hardly need to be spelt out. Receivership, as a process, is inevitably expensive because the receiver is usually an accountant charging hourly rates of some size. However, in this case, the default of the husband, in relation to what is child maintenance largely, has been extreme and it is obvious that he has put in the past, and will put in the future, every conceivable obstacle in the way to frustrate implementation of the court’s order. It is worth him reflecting, however, that when the court makes an order the owner of that order is not the wife, it is the court. When you defy the order you are not defying your former spouse, you are defying the court.”

The judge extended the asset freezing order for a further 12 months, saying this was logical after the appointment for a receiver for the arrears.

The judge also noted that, since January 2012, the man had made “eight applications which have been found expressly by the court to be totally without merit.” This mean his behaviour had satisfied the criteria required for granting a civil restraint order.

Lastly Mr Justice Mostyn turned to the issue of costs. The wife was entitled to payment of her costs and the husband’s litigation history in the case was precisely the kind which would entitle the court to make an award on an ‘indemnity’ (compensation) basis. He was ordered to pay £45,000 within 14 days.

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