WC v HC  EWFC 22 - Financial Remedy directions reminder from Peel J - concise expositions of law - departure from equality based on needs (22.3.22)
This case is of note because Peel J made some preliminary comments on preparation for trial, and then gave a good potted précis of the law in financial remedy proceedings.
In his preliminary comments he reminded practitioners of following the FPR and court directions:-
‘Para 2.5 of PD 27A mandates that s25 statements be typed in ‘a font no smaller than 12 point and with 1 ½ or double spacing’ (as this article is !). He chided W’s advisors for using a smaller font which when corrected transformed W’s statement into 27 pages, rather than the 20 as directed.
‘This is completely unacceptable, and W's legal team should not have permitted it to happen’ scowled the judge.
He continued ‘By para 11 of the High Court Statement of Efficient Conduct of Financial Remedy Proceedings, s25 statements must only contain evidence, and “on no account should contain argument or other rhetoric”. W's over long statement crossed the line and descended into a number of personal, and prejudicial matters, directed at H which, in my view, were irrelevant to the matters at hand. Judges will deal with relevant evidence, and will not base decisions on alleged moral turpitude or what Coleridge J once famously described disapprovingly (albeit in a slightly different context) as a “rummage through the attic” of the marriage in G v G  EWHC (Fam) 1339.’
Further he added ‘After the parties had exchanged and lodged skeleton arguments, H served updating disclosure. W objected either to the updates being adduced in evidence, or to the updated figures appearing in the composite schedules. I therefore started the trial with competing composite schedules, which was thoroughly unsatisfactory and defeated the purpose of having composite schedules in the first place.’
‘I deprecate the practice, which appears to be prevalent, of lawyers producing at the eleventh hour spreadsheet analysis of expenditure during the marriage (and/or since separation) based on primary documents such as bank and credit card statements which have been in their possession for many months.’ The judge suggested these should be dealt with at final directions.
‘It seemed to me at the start of the trial that far and away the most material aspect of the case was W's reasonable needs. By the end of the trial, my view on that had not altered. It is a moot point whether the wide-ranging, and at times bad-tempered, inquiry by the parties into a multiplicity of other issues achieved much of value.’
Although the judge criticised the parties and advisors, this was not reflected in costs within this judgement, although at the end the judge invited argument on costs (the amount of which he was aware of and seem to have been taken onto account on assessing division of assets and income, so we will never know).
As to the remaining judgement, apart from the facts, it is concise exposition of law, and worth a read, it’s a good refresher course covering the following topics:-
- Sharing principle, the issues, the Law, pre-marital and post marital agreements, inter vivos subvention and inheritance.
The facts need not be recited save to say:-
- It was relatively large money case after a 19/20 year relationship marriage.
- In 2004 there were pre marital agreements and supplements to it.
- In 2017 there was a post marital agreement, agreed to but not signed by W.
- The family lifestyle was largely funded by the generosity of H's very wealthy father, which ceased on issue of divorce petition.
- The parties agreed expenditure by H on the children’s needs.
- It was likely that H would inherit significant monies from his ageing father.
- On the facts W was not bound by the post marital agreement, but it weighed heavily as ‘all the circumstances’ of the case,
Peel J made an award to W equal to 60% of the finances which approximated to that which was contained within the Post-Marital Agreement but went beyond it to meet the wife’s needs judged against all the relevant factors.
Judges may pick up on the preliminary comments, so if you are not complying, wear protective head gear.
 I often find that in court it is often said ‘What are the wife’s reasonable needs, but in my humble view, that is the wrong discriminatory question. It should be ‘What are the parties reasonable needs’.