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Marital Assets

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  • The parties married in 2004, separated in 2015 and the decree absolute of divorce was granted in 2019. The three children lived with the mother and had only indirect contact with the father. DJ Graham Keating found that their housing needs were being met, albeit imperfectly, by living in the former matrimonial home (FMH). He considered whether the income disparities and needs justified spousal maintenance. Although the mother had not been transparent about her resources, and the parties' litigation history strongly suggested that a clean break and the avoidance of subsequent litigation was very desirable, the mother would be responsible for the care of the children, for housing, feeding, schooling and clothing them. The district judge decided to grant the mother a 48.9% share of the father's 1995 pension, made no order for spousal maintenance, and left the beneficial interest of two properties with the mother and one with the father. He ordered the sale of the FMH, but this would not take effect provided that the mother secured the father's release from the mortgage, and paid him all costs awards from these proceedings, plus interest. If that were done within two years, the FMH need not be sold and the father would transfer his legal and beneficial interest in it to her. The father sought his costs of the FDR, and relied on a schedule of costs totalling £8,468. The district judge ordered that the mother should pay £7,388. The father also claimed for costs for the remainder of the proceedings. The district judge, quoting Mostyn J in OG v AG [2020] EWFC 52 ("if, once the financial landscape is clear, you do not openly negotiate reasonably, then you will likely suffer a penalty in costs") found that each of the factors in FPR 28.3(7)(a), (b), (d) and (e) justified an award of costs in favour of the father, the mother's evidence having been "elusive and evasive" as to her income. The mother was ordered to pay £9,000 towards the father's costs since the FDR. Judgment, 04/07/2021, free
  • A judgment that, Knowles J said, endeavoured to provide a clear context for the claims brought by the former wife against some of the eleven respondents, and to then analyse and determine those claims, having taken account of a mass of documentary and oral evidence. The wife had been the victim of a series of schemes designed to put every penny of the husband’s wealth beyond her reach, a strategy designed to render her powerless by ensuring that, if she did not settle her claim for financial relief following their divorce on the husband’s terms, there would be no assets left for her to enforce against. Knowles J's decision was as follows. To grant relief to the wife against Counselor Trust: (a) as trustee of the Genus Trust, in the sum received from Cotor, the best estimate of which was US$650 million; (b) as trustee of the Arbaj Trust, US$36,624,946, CHF 4,000,000 and £1 million ; (c) as trustee of the Ladybird Trust, US$46,752,468, CHF 1,287,078.50, €76,918 and £128,100; and (d) as trustee of the Carnation Trust, US$455,363,485, and CHF 10,000; with joint and several liability where relevant to avoid double recovery. She granted relief to the wife against Sobaldo Establishment, in its capacity as trustee of the Longlaster Trust, in the sum of US$546,735,165. The relief granted against the eldest son, Temur, was (a) US$67,500,000 in respect of the claim for transfers of the Monetary Assets to him from Cotor in 2015 and 2016; (b) US$31,499,998 in respect of the claim for receipt of Monetary Assets previously held by Counselor Trust and/or Sobaldo Establishment between 2017 and 2019; and (c) RUB 531,560,331 in respect of the claim in respect of a Moscow property. His oral evidence had been preceded by his belated admissions of having significantly breached his disclosure obligations, described by Knowles J as "lamentable litigation conduct". She also granted the wife relief against Borderedge Ltd in the sum of €27,500,021.38. Judgment, 02/05/2021, free
  • The husband appealed from the final financial remedy order. The issue at the heart of the appeal was whether the judge's determination of the £3.4m award he made in favour of the wife was flawed because it was based in part on a flawed figure for the parties' capital resources advanced on behalf of the wife. Moylan LJ came to the conclusion that the judge's decision was indeed flawed for that reason and had to be set aside. The figures that each side had put forward for the judge had been similarly flawed in their approach. He considered whether the Court of Appeal was able to substitute its own decision but he concluded that it could not. Popplewell and Phillips LJJ agreed, and the case was remitted to the same judge for rehearing. Judgment, 03/03/2021, free
  • The wife appealed from an order that had reduced the lump sum awarded to the husband from £814,000 to £733,650 (£630,000 and £550,000 net after payment of capital gains tax) and reduced the husband's pension share from 48.6% to 34%. The wife had retained 73% of the non-pension assets plus the balance of her pensions. Both the district judge and the judge had considered that a significant departure from an equal sharing of the matrimonial assets was justified. Following receipt of the judge's judgment both the husband and the wife had sent what were said to be requests for clarification. The judge concluded that these requests were in fact an impermissible "critique of the judgment and an attempt at further argument". In Moylan LJ's view, the judge had clearly decided that it was too late for further evidence to be adduced, and this decision was one which had been open to him and it had not been shown to be wrong. Parties should not expect a judge to permit further evidence to be adduced at such a late stage of the proceedings, particularly following an appeal. Lewison and Nugee LJ agreed, and the wife's appeal was dismissed. Judgment, 01/02/2021, free
  • A short judgment dealing with an ancillary dispute. After a final order had been approved, a question remained as to what security should be provided by the husband. The parties had failed to agree the terms of the security. Lieven J identified disputes as to (a) whether the security should be discharged when the lump sum against which it was charged was paid; (b) the precise terms of the charges; and (c) the particular properties to be charged. She decided that once the lump sum in question had been paid the security in respect of that lump sum would be discharged. The properties to form the security would be as set out in the consent order. She approved the charge drawn in the form drafted by the husband, with his amendments being applied but not the wife's. In her view, the issues around security had spiralled entirely out of control, but she made no order for costs, it not being possible to tell on the material before her where any unreasonable conduct lay. Judgment, 08/10/2020, free

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