The former wife of a wealthy chartered accountant has had her financial settlement docked by no less than £400,000 for unreasonable litigation.
In MF v SF, the couple in question had been married for 20 years. The wife, a former beauty therapist, became a full time mother after the birth of the first of their two children. The husband was employed by a family company, earning a substantial salary.
Following the separation, the wife pursued her husband for a financial settlement and the case proceeded through the courts, generating no less than £980,000 in legal fees. She argued that she should receive a settlement of £3.8 million, as the husband’s shares were worth around £6 million in total. He by contrast insisted that total matrimonial assets were worth only £3.1 million. She should receive half of this, he accepted, as the wealth had been created during their marriage, but the amounts should be adjusted in his favour to reflect the fact that she had spent a considerable amount on legal costs and had rejected an earlier offer he had made to her.
She had done so in the midst of various accusations of dishonesty against her husband and his business partner. These had been levelled despite her apparent belief that the business partner was “well-respected” and honest in other ways.
In the High Court, Mr Justice Moylan described the wife as
“…also an honest witness. However, it is clear that her whole approach to these proceedings has been governed by her suspicion of the Husband which developed before the parties separated. She has a deep distrust of the Husband such that she has, in my view, been unable to bring any sensible objectivity to this case. From her perspective events are described as “strange”, “odd” or “bizarre” because she believes the Husband, in collusion with [others], has been acting to diminish or defeat her claims.”
Her claims of conspiracy lacked credibility, concluded the Judge, and there was no reason for her not to have accepted the husband’s original offer and thereby avoided her subsequent legal costs, which he described as “grossly disproportionate”. The husband should not required to fund these in full.
Mr Justice Moylan therefore that the couple’s assets be divided unequally, with the wife received just £900,000 and the husband £1.3 million in recognition of the wife’s excessive litigation.
The judgement is available here.