Grubb v Grubb: "To be involved in ancillary relief litigation is a dire prospect for any husband or wife"

Lord Justice Thorpe, again
The report of Grubb v Grubb [2012] EWCA Civ 398, published on Bailii yesterday, may be brief but it is not without interest, particularly for the ubiquitous Lord Justice Thorpe's comments on the level of costs in financial remedy proceedings in London.

The husband had been ordered to pay the wife's costs of her claim for ancillary relief. Moylan J made a summary assessment of those costs "in a big figure", and the husband sought permission to appeal. The Court of Appeal considered that there was very little substantial material upon which the summary assessment had been based, so they granted permission to appeal and ordered the filing by the parties of a) the forms H and such other statement of costs as were before Moylan J, and b) detailed bills of each party's costs of the financial remedy proceedings.

The parties then agreed a figure of £320,000, which was to be substituted for the figure ordered by Moylan J. However, the husband, who was acting in person, still sought the filing of forms H and detailed bills, apparently to check whether the wife's solicitors, Payne Hicks Beach, had overcharged her.

The husband's application was refused by the Court of Appeal. Giving the leading judgment, Lord Justice Thorpe said:
" seems to me that the application must inevitably be refused, because as a matter of logic the documents can be of no benefit to Mr Grubb in any financial sense. If he were to conceive that his wife had been overcharged there would be absolutely nothing he could do about it because he has made a contract with his wife for the payment of those costs. Of course it would be open, I think, to Mrs Grubb herself to seek an assessment against Payne Hicks Beach, but there is no indication at all that she is herself contemplating such a course or has any reason to believe that she has been overcharged."
Prior to this, however, he said:
"To be involved in ancillary relief litigation is a dire prospect for any husband or wife. The level of costs that are charged nowadays in London by specialist solicitors and barristers seems to many, both within and without the profession, to have reached very high levels; certainly unacceptably high levels in comparison with other major capitals in which ancillary relief claims are litigated, admittedly under different systems of justice."
Everything, however, is comparative. In an exchange with Mrs Grubb's counsel Richard Anelay QC, he said:
"Although the figure ordered by Moylan J and the figure agreed today is a big figure, it is, in comparison with some other bills we see, a small figure. So it depends on the way you look at it, but if you look at it from Mr Grubb's point of view it has got to seem a big figure."
And also from my point of view! The moral, as suggested by the quote in the title to this post, must be to avoid litigating financial remedies on divorce, if at all possible.


  1. Or perhaps the moral is to avoid getting married in the first place! :p

  2. Northern Lights3 April 2012 at 23:30

    Is it just me or does LJ Thorpe bear more than a passing resemblance to Peter Cook's biased Judge character below?

    1. You're right. I said he was ubiquitous!

      (I LOVE that sketch, by the way, and still miss the brilliance of Peter Cook.)

  3. Northern Lights4 April 2012 at 11:01


    You probably remember this one too. Pity he never had the latin...

    1. Yep - watched that many times. Used to have it on my phone. Wonderful stuff.

  4. Have to agree with Michael. On no account put yourself at the Mercy of these people and courts and Judges, they are completely Mad, bit like Lord Melchett in Blackadder goes Forth.

  5. General Melchett "Baaah!"


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