A once wealthy couple who brought themselves close to financial ruin by lavishing almost £1.25 million – over a third of their liquid assets – on divorce proceedings have been criticised by a High Court judge for their repeated failure to compromise.
The legal bills were described as ‘staggering’, particularly when measured against the couple’s raft of debts and total wealth of little more than £5 million, much of which was tied up in pension funds. Despite their dwindling fortune, they had continued to doggedly pursue each other, spending so much money on private detectives and lawyers that the private education of their three children was in jeopardy.
The judge observed that it was an inevitable consequence of their own actions and inability to reach a concord that neither husband nor wife could hope to achieve anything approaching the standard of living in retirement which they might otherwise have expected. Given the limited sums now available to them, the Court was constrained to take a needs-based approach to the division of marital assets.
The Court made a number of highly critical findings against the couple, relating amongst other things to the wife’s unauthorised dealings with a Russian property portfolio and the husband’s failure to disclose an offshore bank account, containing almost $850,000, until a very late stage in the proceedings.
The judge found that the husband was entitled to 54.22 per cent of the available assets and the wife 45.78 per cent. That inequality was justified by the wife’s sale of a property at a substantial undervalue and the fact that the husband was approaching retirement age and had acquired many of the assets prior to the couple’s 13-year marriage.