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MF v SF (Financial Remedy: Financial Conduct) [2015] EWHC 1273 (Fam)

Date:3 NOV 2015
Law Reporter
(Family Division, Moylan J, 4 February 2015)

 Financial remedies – Litigation conduct – Allegations against the husband – Whether there was any basis for the wife’s allegations – Whether the award should be adjusted to take into account the wife’s litigation conduct

 Please see attached file below for the full judgment.

 In financial remedy proceedings the court ordered an equal division of the assets with an adjustment in favour of the husband to take into account the wife’s litigation conduct in pursuing an unsustainable case in a wholly disproportionate manner.

 The husband and wife were married for almost 20 years and had two children together. The wife was a beauty therapist prior to the birth of the children but then became a full-time mother. The husband was a chartered accountant for a private family company. His final position was as finance director earning approximately £550,000pa. He was subsequently made redundant and was now employed by a different company at a rate of £145,000pa.

 When the parties separated the wife applied for financial remedy. The parties had so far spent £980,000 on legal fees. The wife's open offer was that she should receive £3.8m excluding a 50% pension share, based upon the husband's shares being worth £6m. The husband's case was that the total resources amounted to £3,1m and, therefore, the wife should receive £1.5m but with a number of adjustments in his favour in respect of the wife's refusal to accept his previous offer and the disparity in their respective legal costs.

 The wife asserted, amongst other matters, that the husband's redundancy had been a sham designed to frustrate her claims for financial remedy. On the basis of all the evidence this was merely groundless suspicion with no supporting evidence. She further submitted that loans made by the company to the husband of over £1m had been waived but the husband was refuting this in order to decrease the value of his shares. Once again, there was no evidence to support this claim.

 On the basis of all the evidence the husband's shareholding was found to be worth no more than £1.7m. The wife's only income was child benefit and child tax credits. However, she could reinstate her beauty business and an earning capacity of £5,000 starting in 6 months' time was reasonable.

 The wife also sought an add-back of £137,000 on the grounds that the husband had dissipated resources but there was no evidence that the husband had dissipated resources through excessive expenditure.

 The parties' total assets amounted to just over £3m. As the wealth had been created during the marriage the starting point was an equal division. The husband sought additional adjustments in his favour of £350,000 due to the wife's failure to accept his original offer.

 The wife's case of wide-ranging dishonesty on the part of the husband and his business partner was plainly unsustainable from the outset. It lacked any proper balance or objectivity. The wife's opinion of the husband's business partner was that he was honest and well-respected. Given such an opinion it was unlikely that he would have participated in such a broad conspiracy in order to mislead the wife and the court.

 It was, therefore, clear that the wife should have accepted the husband's original offer and it would not be fair to ignore the consequences of her conduct. She had vigorously pursued her allegations in a wholly disproportionate manner. Adjustments would be made in the husband's favour.

 Giving appropriate weight to all of the s 25 factors a fair award would be to provide the wife with net capital resources of £900,000 and the husband £1.3m leaving a disparity of £400,000 in respect of the wife's conduct. An equal pension sharing order would be made. Periodical payments would be made of £30,000pa in respect of the wife and £10,000pa per child.
  Neutral Citation [2015] EWHC 1273 (Fam)


 The Combined Court Centre
 Oxford Row

 4th February 2015



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 SF (Respondent)

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 Transcribed from an audio recording by J L Harpham Limited Official Court Reporters and Transcribers 55 Queen Street Sheffield S1 2DX

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 MISS SAXTON (instructed by Lake Legal) for the Applicant
 MISS HARRISON QC (instructed by Slater and Gordon) for the Respondent

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 MF v SF (Financial Remedy: Financial Conduct) [2015] EWHC 1273 (Fam)