Costs, Cafcass figures and large awards: The last week in family law

Mr Justice Holman has criticised a couple for what he described as the “crazy” amount of money they have spent on legal bills during their divorce. The couple have so far spent £1.5 million, arguing over assets worth £10 million. The judge said that if couples were fighting over £100 million then spending £1 million on lawyers would be proportionate, but this couple were not in that bracket. “I have come across litigation that loses all sense of costs proportionality but I have rarely come across it on this scale,” he said. He warned the couple that if they don’t negotiate there would be nothing left, and instead of getting Maseratis they would be left with ‘a beaten up old Ford’, if they were lucky. He added: “Ultimately people can just litigate to the end and bankrupt themselves.”

The future government should do more to support healthy couple, co-parenting and family relationships to improve the nation’s health and wellbeing and make significant savings to the public purse. This is according to the Relationships Alliance 2017 Manifesto, which was launched in anticipation of the general election. The manifesto was produced by The Relationships Alliance, a group of relationship support charities consisting of Relate, OnePlusOne, Tavistock Relationships and Marriage Care. The Alliance is calling on all political parties to support strong and healthy relationships by making seven policy priorities a reality if elected. These priorities include introducing a cross-government relationships strategy with a cabinet Minister for Families and Relationships, and funding free or subsidised relationship support for disadvantaged groups. The Relationships Alliance members say that a robust agenda to support relationships would help to resolve parental conflict, reduce health demand, improve children’s educational attainment and ensure people can better protect themselves from shocks such as losing a job, debt, family breakdown or long-term health conditions. Furthermore, these benefits would save the state millions of pounds.

The latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for April 2017, have been published by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (‘Cafcass’), the organisation that represents children in family court cases. In that month the service received a total of 1,029 care applications, which is 16% decrease compared with those received in April 2016. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,219 new private law cases, which is a 7% decrease on April 2016 levels.

A wife has been awarded the sum of £453 million, in what may be the biggest divorce award ever made in this country. The wife had contended that the total marital assets were worth over £1 billion, and she claimed the sum of £453 million, representing 41.5% of those assets. The husband, who made his fortune in the Russian energy business, had argued that he had made a “special contribution” towards the family wealth and that he should therefore receive more. However, for reasons that are unclear he decided two weeks before the trial to no longer contest proceedings. He did not attend the final hearing, and was not represented. In the light of this Mr Justice Haddon-Cave awarded the wife the full amount of her claim.

A woman who was married to a multi-millionaire for just 23 months has been awarded £4.25 million by the family court. The husband, who is worth about £37 million, appealed against the award, claiming that it was more than was required to meet the wife’s needs. However, Mr Justice Mostyn in the High Court found that the award, whilst generous, was well within the discretion of the judge. He therefore dismissed the appeal.

And finally, the President of the Family Division Sir James Munby has called for a complete de-linking of divorce and ‘money’ cases, so that they are started and pursued by completely separate processes. Divorce cases would continue to be dealt with by the new regional divorce centres, and all family financial cases would be dealt with by new specialist Financial Remedies Courts. The President hopes that the new courts will be up and running by Spring 2018.