In my last article I warned of the possible consequences of spouses in divorce trying to conceal their assets or misleading the court whilst trying to reach a financial settlement.
This month I wish to highlight why it is important to fully co-operate in the litigation process and not try to avoid proper process.
Two recent cases which illustrate. In Veluppillai the husband’s conduct was described by the Judge as “truly abysmal”.
During the proceedings (which involved over 40 hearings Including 4 appeals by the husband since December 2012) the husband had been removed from the court on at least one occasion and had been repeatedly warned by the judges about his unpleasant menacing conduct in court. On one occasion he assaulted the wife’s Barrister and the wife and later was convicted of assault in a Magistrates Court. The husband had threatened to kill his wife and her Counsel in parallel proceedings concerning a “bogus loan asserted by his sister”.
He then skipped his sentencing by fleeing abroad and then bombarded the court with abuse emails claiming he had a fatal illness. He demanded the proceedings be adjourned indefinitely.
The husband‘s two attempt to adjourn the final hearing on medical grounds was rejected by the trial judge, there being insufficient medical evidence, but instead allowed the husband to take part in the hearing by video or telephone. The husband did not participate but rather kept up a stream of abusive emails to the judge’s clerk.
The husband’s attempts to manipulate evidence and deceit the proceedings did not help him. Quite the reverse. The judge found that a property which had been placed in the names of his son and sister was a deliberate attempt to avoid the property being taken into account, and so it was included in the “marital pot” for division.
Further, the judge found the husband had not chosen to disclose at least £500,000 which was held by his sister, children, or otherwise elsewhere. The husband had also sold the wife’s jewellery for a considerable sum and had kept the proceeds.
The wife’s proposals for settlement were accepted as being eminently reasonable and fair – a far cry from the result the husband had wanted to achieve. The real sting in the tail to the husband however was in relation to costs. The judge made an order that the husband pay his wife’s solicitor’s charges as if she had been a private fee paying client, rather than at Legal Aid rates, even though the wife had the benefit of public funding. Costs were assessed at £146,609 and a charge was placed on a flat which had been found to be beneficially owned by the husband. The judge also extended a Civil Restraint Order to last for a further two years from the date of the final hearing, and directed that the Commissioner for the Police for the Metropolis should be sent all of the husband’s emails to the court since 8 October 2015 a decision to be made if any of the threats contained in them amounted to criminal offences.
The case of Baldwin v Baldwin, published only recently, demonstrated that those intent upon doing what they can to impede and defeat their spouse’s claim, whist hiding their true intentions from the court, does not pay off. The husband was English and a wife Ethiopian; they were married in Dubai and continued to live there until their separation in June 2013. The husband began work in Indonesia and the wife returned to Ethiopia with their child.
The husband issued divorce proceedings in England claiming that was his “domicile” which gave the court jurisdiction. However, he demonstrated standards when he claimed the English courts did not have jurisdiction to deal with her application for maintenance – with the full knowledge that it would be extremely hard for the wife to seek maintenance in Indonesia, Ethiopia or Dubai.
The court saw through him, and found that he had deliberately not paid any maintenance by reneging on an agreement reached through solicitor claiming he had agreed under “duress”, made the wife and child homeless by cancelling the lease on the marital home in Dubai, and argued against the English court dealing with her application for maintenance knowing that it would be extremely hard for the wife to seek maintenance in Indonesia, Ethiopia or Dubai. The final straw for the judge may well have been when the husband made an application for the judge to abandon the proceedings on the second day of the hearing as a result of alleged prejudice, so that it could be heard by a different judge.
The judge concluded “I have come to the view that this husband will run any argument, and employ any tactic, to avoid his responsibilities to his wife and child, and deliberately sought …to starve her of litigation funds”.
The husband was ordered to pay £2,000 per month maintenance, the wife’s legal costs to date, and a further £4,000 per month to pay her ongoing litigation costs.
The moral of the story is, expect to be penalised if intention is to deceit or impede the other party’s claim. If you do it may result in you being worse off than you would have been if you had co-operated and behaved in conducted proceedings in a proper way.
If you wish to discuss this or similar matters, Anita Garside – Slinger, Member of the Law Society, Family Law Accreditation Scheme, and resolution, may be contacted at Ringrose Law, 2/2a Bargate, Newark [Tel 01636 594460; email firstname.lastname@example.org]. Free clinic appointments are available each Friday.