Divorcing couples should take note of a case in which separated parents spent more than a third of their modest fortune on legal costs – although they could have housed and supported themselves comfortably had they chosen to compromise rather than litigate.
The parents of two children lived in a £650,000 home and enjoyed a good lifestyle through the husband’s earnings as an independent financial adviser. However, they had a £400,000 mortgage and their total capital assets were valued at less than £350,000 by the end of their 17-year marriage. Against that, they had so far run up almost £124,000 in legal bills and the litigation was far from over.
A divorce court ordered the transfer of the former matrimonial home to the wife and directed the husband to pay her and their children maintenance of £2,500 a month. She was also granted the £19,000 contents of their savings account. In challenging that decision, the husband’s lawyers argued that he had been left with little more than £80,000 to his name and that the maintenance was simply unaffordable.
In allowing the husband’s appeal and directing a complete re-hearing of the case, a judge found that his earnings had been over-estimated and that weight had been placed on flawed expert evidence. In his ruling, the judge criticised the ‘truly scandalous’ costs of the dispute to date and commented that it was a very straightforward case which had clearly gone off the rails.