Weekly Family Law Update July 23, 2021

Costs, a settled case and support for cohabiting couples

Husband criticised for “intransigent stance”

A judge has criticised a husband for what he called the husband’s “intransigent stance” to negotiating the settlement of a divorce financial dispute. The judge said that the husband’s stance rendered the case ‘unsettleable’, as a result of which nearly £900,000 of legal costs were incurred.

Mr Justice Mostyn said it was clear to him that the essential reason why settlement of the case was stymied at all times was that the husband was not prepared to accept that a fair outcome would be an equal sharing of the marital assets. He said that notwithstanding that a large sum of money was made during the marriage, the husband doggedly clung to the notion that the only fair way of resolving the case would be to confine the wife to her needs, very conservatively assessed.

It was, said Mr Justice Mostyn, a position that was “completely fruitless”. It was clear to him from the start that this was a case which cried out for the application of the ‘yardstick of equality’ to the money made during the marriage, and that is how he determined the case.

In the light of the husband’s conduct, Mr Justice Mostyn ordered him to pay a quarter of the wife’s legal costs, amounting to £109,000.

Russian billionaire divorce case settles

A long-running divorce dispute between a Russian oligarch and his former wife has settled.

In 2016 the High Court awarded the sum of £453 million to Tatiana Akhmedova, comprising 41.5% of the total marital assets. This was believed to be the biggest divorce award in this country.

Since then, Ms Akhmedova has been attempting to enforce the award, including recently obtaining an order for the parties’ son to pay her £75 million which Mr Akhmedov had transferred to him, with the intention of putting his assets beyond the reach of Ms Akhmedova.

It has now been reported that the parties have now settled the case, with Ms Akhmedova agreeing to receive the sum of £150 million.

Representatives for Mr Akhmedov said that he had agreed to pay her £100 million in cash and about £50 million in artworks. Ms Akhmedova has not commented.

It has also been reported that Ms Akhmedova has spent some £75 million on litigation funding and legal fees.

Cohabiting couples to benefit from changes to bereavement benefit rules

The Department for Work and Pensions (‘DWP’) has announced plans to extend bereavement support to cohabiting couples with children.

Previously, a surviving parent could only claim the financial support if they had been married or in a civil partnership at the time of their spouse or civil partner’s death.

Under these plans, Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Support Payments will be extended to surviving cohabiting partners with children who were living with their partner at the time of death.

It’s estimated that more than 22,000 families will now be able to claim this help, totalling an additional £320 million in support for bereaved children over the next five years.

DWP Minister, Baroness Stedman-Scott said:

“The death of a loved one is devastating, and can also come with significant financial implications.

“This change will mean more families can access support during the most difficult of times, and I hope to make that possible as swiftly as I can.”

Under these draft plans, a surviving partner with dependent children will only need to have lived with the deceased on the date of death.

Once approved by Parliament, the changes will apply retrospectively from the 30th of August 2018, with any backdated payments being made as lump sums.