Court shines a light on disproportionate divorce costs

Whilst reviewing the latest stage of a matrimonial finance dispute in the Family Division of the High Court, a judge has commented on the “scandalous waste of court time” applied to a case involving divorcing parties, Barbara Cooke and Michael Parker. The pair, operating a luxury bathrobe and towel business, are estimated to have spent some £2,000,000 on legal costs to date, as they continue their dispute over matrimonial assets estimated to be worth approxiamtely £6,600,000.

Mr Justice Holman scolded the parties, stating that they had “completely lost touch with reality”, urging them to consider a negotiated settlement before their dispute ended in catastrophe.

The judge commented, “They have spent a third of their wealth slugging it out. These people have completely lost touch with reality. I don’t know where the responsibility lies; it’s probably shared…. Sometimes one can see cases where people are just absolutely determined to go on and on and on. I don’t know on which side the fault lies but this seems to be that sort of case.

Holman estimated that a further £200,000 might be spent on legal costs, if the parties were unable to resolve their dispute without further litigation.

Whilst the estimated costs quoted in this case may be beyond the realms of most people’s familiarity, the principle of adopting a proportionate approach to costs and litigation pervades all family disputes. Commenting on the case, partner Pui Uro said, “It is always sad to see a couple become entrenched in a dispute and refusing to consider alternative forms of dispute resolution. Whilst the unique nature of individual cases means not all are suitable for mediation or a collaborative settlement process, sometimes court action is required to resolve a dispute. It is imperative that the advice a client receives is tailored to their circumstances and this includes understanding the client’s appetite for litigation and continued dispute, together with an understanding of their approach to costs. Regularly throughout cases, I conduct a costs benefit analysis with a client, as of course, such appetite changes with the ebbs and flows of a case too.”

If you would like to know more about costs in divorce and finance proceedings and how we might help you resolve your family law matters, Hunter & Uro offers a free, initial consultation to prospective clients. Our specialist family solicitors can help guide you through your options. Contact us on 01234 889777  or 0207 177 9777 for more information.

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