A divorcing mother set to receive the lion’s share of the proceeds from a property sale could lose thousands after she confronted her daughter with a wooden spoon.
The couple in question began divorce proceedings in 2013, following a marriage which had lasted a decade and a half in total. During the subsequent proceedings, in November last year, the wife was awarded 70 per cent of the proceeds from the sale of the family home. She was judged to have greater need because the couple’s two children were to live with her most of the time.
But at the High Court this week, Mr Justice Holman granted the husband permission to appeal the settlement, because the mother had been prosecuted for an unspecified incident involving a wooden spoon and her 13 year old daughter.
Details of the incident were not revealed but her solicitors stressed in documents supplied to the court that “no physical contact” with the child had occurred.
Mr Justice Holman stated:
“The relevant point is that it did result in the wife being prosecuted for a criminal offence. Magistrates imposed a conditional discharge which does of course imply they were satisfied that a criminal offence had been committed – however minor – by the wife upon the daughter.”
He noted that both the couple’s teenage daughter and her younger sibling had given evidence against the mother during the magistrates court hearing. Both children had since “reacted against” the mother, the Judge explained, and begun living with their father full time. The children’s alienation from their mother was “very tragic indeed”, he declared.
The changed circumstances meant that the father now had a real chance of successfully appealing against the earlier financial settlement. If the appeal did go in his favour, the mother could lose around £44,000, the Judge stated, but their total legal costs could equal or exceed this if the court hearings continued, as they had already run up a £30,000 legal bill..
He urged the couple to settle their differences., saying:
“One sees there is a terrible scenario here of these two parties continuing to throw money at this litigation and losing sight of what is in issue between them.”
Although the judgement has not yet been published, it seems reasonable to conclude that the Judge’s decision was based on a simple calculation of each party’s reasonable financial needs following a significant change in the family’s circumstances. Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 sets out the factors to be considered by the Courts when dividing a divorcing couple’s assets.
Paragraph 1 states clearly that “first consideration” must be “given to the welfare while a minor of any child of the family who has not attained the age of eighteen.”
Paragraph 2 (b), meanwhile, stresses the importance of:
“…the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future.”
So the Judge’s decision will have been, as family court rulings always are, focused on the needs of the children, mysterious incidents involving wooden spoons notwithstanding!