(Court of Appeal; Thorpe, Longmore and Stanley Burnton LJJ; 30 June 2011)
Financial proceedings became compromised at hearing. The parties recorded an agreement and understanding in recital to orders. The intention of the agreement was that the wife would become financially independent from husband. The wife was to keep husband informed of any increase to current income of £1,000pm or more. A periodical payments order was for fixed a term of 5 years, but left the wife free to make a further application which she did. The district judge was required to make a range of findings: including a finding that the wife had made no serious attempt to ensure that her skills were up to date or relevant and was clearly unwilling to work. The husband was criticised for disclosure, but not for periods away from work, which was due to a depressive illness. The judge extended the term for about 16 months, but included s 28(1) restriction on any further application by the wife. Wife appealed. Judge allowed appeal, extended term further for more than 3 years, and made joint lives order at nominal rate thereafter. Father appealed.
Appeal allowed. The judge had exceeded his function and failed to direct himself to the nature of the appellate process. He had based his decision on a view of the wife's financial situation that was fundamentally at variance with the findings of the district judge. The judge had been exercising independent discretion. The limited function of the circuit judge in hearing appeals from district judge should be recognised and honoured.