Divorcing husband wins appeal against costs order favouring wife

A husband has won his appeal against a costs order in favour of his wife during divorce proceedings.

The couple had been married in 2007 and had one child. Their marriage ended in 2017 following two incidents of violence by the husband. He was acquitted in criminal proceedings, but a finding was made at a fact-finding hearing that he had been violent to the wife.

Throughout the marriage, the wife had been the breadwinner, and the husband had taken a significant role in caring for their child. The wife had several assets and received income from work and rental properties.

The husband had no assets and received universal credit. At the trial of the financial remedy claim, the judge decided that it was a needs case and ordered a lump sum to enable the husband to buy himself a property and to pay most of his costs on the basis that his needs would not be met if there was no provision for his debts.

The wife appealed arguing that the husband should pay his own costs. The appeal judge substituted an order that a charge for the sum referable to the husband's costs should be secured on the property he would purchase.

The Court of Appeal has overturned that and reinstated the original judge’s ruling.

It held that the appeal judge had erred when setting aside the trial judge's order because she took into account that there had been a finding against the husband that he had been violent to the wife on two occasions. However, a conduct case had not been pursued by the wife in the financial remedy proceedings.

The order made by the original judge at trial, which allowed the parties to achieve a clean break, could not be regarded as having been outside his wide discretion.

Further, the appeal judge had erred in making an order placing a charge on the husband's property without having heard submissions on that point and in circumstances where neither party had sought such an outcome.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.

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