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Couple’s divorce costs are “staggering” says judge

A couple engaged in acrimonious divorce proceedings have spent close to £1.25 million on legal costs, a figure described as “staggering” by a High Court judge.

In US v SR, the couple divorced after a 13 year marriage. The husband is British and now semi-retired, while the wife is Russian. They had three children, all now teenagers.

It was the husband’s second marriage. Before his retirement, he worked as a senior executive in the oil and gas industry. Since the divorce, he has married for a third time, to a woman 36 years his junior, and has a three year-old child.

His former wife and three children continue to live in the former matrimonial home, while the husband and his new family live in rented accommodation.

Proceedings regarding the former couple’s financial settlement have been complex. They have included unauthorised dealings with a Russian property portfolio by the wife and late disclosure of an offshore bank account containing close to US$850,000 by the husband.

Sitting at the High Court in London, Mrs Justice Roberts noted that the pair’s divorce costs were now approaching £1.25 million. Although the matrimonial assets exceed £5 million, a hefty £1.76 million is tied up in pension funds. Therefore, she declared:

“…their combined costs bill represents about 38% of the remaining liquid resources which will be needed to provide homes for each of them, an income for the wife and the discharge of a significant raft of debt. In this context, it is a staggering figure.”

The judge was firm in her impatience with “the near financial ruin which these proceedings have inflicted on this family.”

She continued:

“…even now, each continues to spend significant further sums on various private detection agencies doggedly pursuing the other in terms of their mutual suspicions that each has still to make full and frank disclosure of their finances. They are sums which this family cannot afford if their three children are to have any hope of completing their school careers in private education (an aspiration which their parents share).”

Mrs Justice Roberts indicated her intention to find a “needs-centric solution” to the couple’s continuing disputes and to make legal orders which would prevent the couple from accruing further costs.

In May last year, Mr Justice Keehan criticised “reckless and foolhardy litigation” between a divorced couple who had run up in excess of £100,000 in legal costs.

Read the full judgement here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. Guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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