Those who attempt to lie their way to a favourable result in divorce proceedings are more than likely to be found out and hit hard in the pocket. That was certainly so in the case of an elderly entrepreneur who treated his ex-wife's financial claims as if they were nothing more than an impertinence.
The English man and his American ex-wife, both in their 70s, were married for almost 30 years before they entered into a separation agreement in New York. The wife subsequently petitioned for divorce in England. Their divorce had yet to be finalised, but they had to date incurred about £1.8 million in legal costs.
Ruling on the matter, the High Court noted that the wheelchair-dependent husband was in poor mental and physical health. There was medical evidence that, although he was able to give oral evidence, his mental capacity to conduct his own case was compromised. That, however, did not deter the Court from describing his litigation conduct as abysmal.
He had treated the entire litigation as if it were an impertinence and a joke. His initial disclosure of his assets was deliberately false and he persisted in misrepresentation and lies to the very end. Given his persistent delinquency, the wife had not acted unreasonably in conducting a detailed forensic investigation of his finances.
The wife's case that he had squirrelled away at least £27.4 million in hidden assets was not, the Court found, established on the evidence. The wealth to be distributed between them was thus confined to visible assets worth about £11.4 million. The Court noted, however, that it would be a travesty of justice were the husband not penalised financially for his delinquent litigation conduct. To mark the Court's very strong condemnation of such conduct, he was ordered to contribute £200,000 towards the wife's legal costs.
Taking into account the capital provisions of the New York separation agreement, the Court found it fair, just and reasonable that the wife should receive 65 per cent of the available assets and the husband 35 per cent. In order to achieve that division and a clean break between them, he was ordered to pay her a lump sum in excess of £1.6 million. The Court noted that the overall result of the titanic litigation was to reduce the husband's net worth by more than £2 million.