A wife who suffered from mental illness has been granted permission to appeal against the divorce settlement she received.
In MAP v RAP, the couple had married in 1981, with the wife eventually issuing a divorce petition in 2008. The previous year she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, previously known as ‘manic depression’. Following her initial diagnosis she was admitted to hospital and detained under the Mental Health Act on a number of occasions.
At the High Court in London, Mr Justice Mostyn noted that when admitted to a mental health unit in Lewisham Hospital in August 2011, she was “found to be manic with psychotic symptoms and was being very vulnerable and challenging.”
Shortly before this admission, she had reached an initial agreement with her estranged husband, which formed the basis of the formal consent order (financial settlement) the following April.
She was discharged from the unit under supervision in October, subsequently firing her divorce solicitors and travelling to Italy.
In 2013, her mental health having improved, the wife applied for permission to appeal against the agreement. Amongst other claims, that she did not have capacity to agree to the order on the basis of her mental illness and that the courts had not been properly aware of this.
She also argued the settlement had been unfair and that the husband was guilty of ‘material non-disclosure’ (ie he had not fully disclosed his financial assets).
Mr Justice Mostyn was unsympathetic to the latter two claims, saying he was “completely satisfied” that they have “no prospect of success”. However, he came to a different conclusion in relation to her capacity, declaring that the claim she had legal capacity to reach the agreement “unarguable”.
“Following her return from hospital it is true that she gained some kind of an improvement although she remained heavily medicated, but as against that one has to remember that she was making the impulsive and unwise decision to represent herself. So, I am of the view that there is an issue of capacity that deserves to be tried.”
Read the full judgement here.