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When does conduct count?

Lake Legal acted for the husband in a case where the judge criticised an estranged wife for running up excessive legal and accountancy costs of over £620,000 in a divorce case. In total the couple ran up costs of £980,000 over the course of the legal proceedings, with the husband having to fend off various accusations made against him.

Mr Justice Moylan made the unusual move of finding it appropriate to award costs against the wife for the way she dealt with the case, which is rare in family law cases.  The full Judgment can be found at Bailli.

The judge found the wife’s case ‘lacked any proper balance or objectivity’ and had ‘been advanced on a speculative and unfounded basis’.

The husband had a successful career as a finance director, and the wife gave up a full time career as a beauty therapist to look after couples’ children.

The husband was made redundant during the divorce. The wife asserted the redundancy wasn’t ‘genuine’, and while she failed to explain why this was the case, she ran up significant legal fees to explore the issue.

Lyn Ayrton, managing partner of Lake Legal, said: “While many couples separating don’t trust each other, the judge found in this case that the wife went above and beyond what was reasonable in contending that the husband and his former employers effectively colluded to make his financial position look worse than it was”.

“In family law cases, conduct is rarely taken into account as it has to be so extreme, but Mr Justice Moylan found that it would be inequitable to disregard it in this case.”

The estranged wife not only argued her former husband colluded with his former employers to fake his redundancy, but also that he had entered a conspiracy with them about the value of shares he still held. No evidence of this was found. Mr Justice Moylan found that ‘the wife had pursued her case and her allegations in a wholly disproportionate manner’ saying that it was one of the more extreme cases he had come across in all his 35 years.

Lyn said: “The husband couldn’t be fully compensated as the judge felt that that would leave too great a financial disparity between the parties, but the lesson is clear for divorcing couples who are fuelled by conspiracy theories that they risk significant financial penalties being imposed by the court if they cannot be proven”

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