Monday, May 16, 2011

Yet another cautionary tale

"The events in this case are a financial disaster for a divorced couple and their child."

So said Mr Justice Peter Jackson, giving judgment in the case Mekarska (Wife) v Ruiz (Husband) [2011] EWHC 913 (Fam). The case concerned an application by the wife for the annulment of a bankruptcy order and an appeal by her against a financial order on divorce. Both the application and the appeal were dismissed. All the gory details can be found in the report, but here I just want to mention Mr Justice Jackson's introductory comments, because they bear repeating, even if similar comments have been made many times before.

He followed the above quote with this summary of the case:
"On separation in 2006, [the parties] might with good sense and co-operation have just about stretched their modest means to meet their overall housing needs. Instead, by 2011, a combination of dissension, misfortune, improvidence, and over-lengthy litigation in three courts, has wiped them out financially and they will now lose their only significant asset, the home occupied by the wife and child. After five years, almost nothing remains of assets once valued at £300,000. A family that had difficulty supporting itself as a single unit cannot afford to dissipate limited assets in litigation, and certainly cannot support the professional expenses of lawyers and accountants over a period of years."

Mr Justice Jackson went on to compare the case with with Evans v Evans (Practice Note) [1990] 1 FLR 319 (Fam), and Piglowska v Piglowski [1999] 2 FLR (HL), but said that if anything it was worse than either, because here the liabilities virtually extinguished the assets and there was no prospect of postponement of the legal aid charge, as there had been in Piglowska. He went on:
"The parties made unnecessary applications and failed to make necessary ones. Procedurally, the overriding objective in the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 and the Family Procedure Rules 2010 has been soundly defeated. The case has not been dealt with expeditiously, and both the costs incurred and the court time spent have been wholly disproportionate to the issues involved. With the passage of time, the result has been to eliminate the possibility of any solution that is even minimally satisfactory."

I'm sure this won't be the last case where the parties dissipate their assets through unnecessary litigation, but a better cautionary example of what may happen if they do could not be found.


  1. some blame has to attach to the professionals, surely...

  2. Not necessarily - often in these cases the parties are oblivious to advice.


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