A young couple, who spent more than two thirds of everything they had on fighting over money following their divorce, have been criticised by the Court of Appeal for their ‘extortionate resort to litigation’ when both of them would have been better off had they compromised instead.
The couple, both intelligent professional people aged in their 30s, had built up a pool of assets worth £321,159 during their four-year marriage. After the separated, they had engaged in lengthy and bitter proceedings in respect of the division of that pot and the future care of their three-year-old daughter. Between them, they had spent £234,000 on legal costs.
In splitting the assets between them, a divorce judge awarded £207,830 to the husband and £113,329 to the wife. The judge found, amongst other things, that the wife had transferred £94,500 to her father during the final stages of the marital breakdown as a ‘subterfuge’ designed to reduce her husband’s entitlement. The husband was also ordered to pay the wife £700 in monthly maintenance for two years, following which there would be a clean break.
Challenging the judge’s decision, the wife’s lawyers argued, amongst other things, that she had been left with too small a sum in order to buy a suitable home for herself and her child. Given her role as the little girl’s primary carer, her future earning capacity was also said to have been over-estimated.
In dismissing the wife’s appeal, however, the Court noted that her ‘valuable and marketable qualification’ as an actuary gave her hope of high earnings in the future. The Court could detect no legal flaw in the judge’s assessment and lamented the parties’ resort to costly litigation in a relatively simple case where agreement could have been expected.