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Long-running divorce dispute sent back to court

In the latest stage of a long-running financial dispute between a former couple, the ex-husband has succeeded in an appeal against two separate legal orders.

Mann v Mann concerned a couple who, following their separation, reached a financial settlement back in 1999. The husband was ordered to make regular maintenance payments to his wife on a ‘joint lives’ basis – that is to say, until the death of one of the couple, the remarriage of the recipient, or a further legal order. Later the husband applied for a decrease in the payments.

The dispute continued for a number of years. In 2005 the husband was ordered to pay maintenance arrears. By 2011, the couple had agreed to enter legally binding mediation in relation to the payments due. Pending an agreement, the husband was to continue making payments and also pay a lump sum and the deposit and rent on a new home for his ex-wife. But the mediation was not successful and the husband stopped making rent payments.

The ex-wife claimed that she was now owed a sum close to £2 million and applied for enforcement of payment under rule 33.3(2)(b) of the Financial Procedure Rules 2010. He disputed her right to do so, on the basis that she had previously agreed to mediation.

She denied this, but in March this year Mr Justice Mostyn said the husband met the terms of a previous financial agreement and that:

“In my judgment they both remain bound by their agreement to mediate.”

He ordered a two month adjournment to give the one-time couple another chance to reach an agreement via mediation.

However, the case did return to court. In May this year, a judge made a further orders requiring the husband to make maintenance payments and to pay arrears, but he did not do so. The parties were ordered to return to court so the husband could “show cause why [he] should not be committed to prison.”

He was granted permission to appeal and a ‘stay’ [postponement] on the order.

Shortly afterwards, in June, Mr Justice Mostyn ruled that the husband should match payments to his solicitor with payments to his ex-wife, as contributions towards the sum he allegedly still owed her. The man launched an appeal against this order, as well as the one made the previous month.

At the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice Macur ruled in his favour, saying there was no legal basis for the orders made. The couple’s agreement, which had included payment of rent, was no longer valid because wife had not taken part in the specified mediation.

In reference to the ruling that payments to Mr Mann’s solicitor should be matched with payments to his ex-wife, Her Ladyship declared:

“Whilst the outcome of the £1 for £1 order may well have resulted in [the husband]’s non representation at proceedings in which his liberty was at stake, I do not find this intent to be reflected in the substance of [Mr Justice Mostyn]’s judgment on 12 June, which clearly reveals the judicial objective to be payment of outstanding sums …If I am wrong in this interpretation, then clearly, without articulation of the manner in which he purported to exercise his discretion, Mostyn J’s judgment is liable to be interpreted as punitive and not for the purpose of ensuring procedural justice…”

Read the judgement here.

Photo by FreddieBrown via Flickr

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. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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