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Joy-Morancho v Joy (Dismissal of Variation Application) [2017] EWHC 2086 (Fam)

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In a tweet: Unsuccessful attempt by H to downward vary PPs using an abbreviated procedure sanctioned by Singer J

  • Summary: At the final hearing (back in August 2015), Singer J had ordered the husband ("H") to pay the wife ("W") spousal periodical payments of £120,000 a year on a joint lives basis (you will recall that W's capital claims remain open and are still to be determined. Three months later, H applied to vary the payments downwards. Separately, H also sought to appeal the final order. 

    In April 2016, directions were given and a conditional stay imposed on the periodical payments order. The parties filed Forms E but otherwise failed to adhere to the timetable. In March 2017, W issued an enforcement application to recover around £200,000 of maintenance arrears plus £15,000 in interest.  

    In May 2017, at a case management hearing, Singer J directed that the variation application should be heard on the basis of submissions alone, with no oral evidence. By this time, the application had generated "ruinous" costs of around £100,000 on H's side and £77,000 for W. Singer J directed that H's variation application be concluded before W's outstanding capital claims and enforcement application. H filed his evidence: a 20-page 100-paragraph statement supported by a 262-page exhibit. The first 11 pages and 54 paragraphs of the statement, and the first 157 pages of the exhibit, were in support of the variation application.

    At the final hearing, half a day was allowed for each party, with no further evidence to be filed or enquiries made without Singer J's approval. The judge rejected W's proposal of a compressed timetable for questionnaires, replies, narrative statements and the joinder of a third party. This abbreviated approach to the disposal of the variation application was justified as a case management decision which did not conflict with s.31 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. 

    Held: H's application was dismissed. H's circumstances neither at the time the application was originally made (December 2015) or indeed his up-to-date position justified a downwards variation in the periodical payments order. Singer J's negative findings about H at first instance were certainly a magnetic factor in his approach to the application and the conclusions he drew.  

    Comment 

    Proportionality, saving expense and the efficient use of court time militate towards an abbreviated procedure in similar circumstances.


Published: 28/09/2017

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