A husband has won his appeal against financial remedy orders involving payments to his former wife after the court proceedings were held to be unfair.
The case involved a husband and wife who had been financially supported by the husband’s extended family. After their divorce they became estranged from the family.
The husband moved to Pakistan and did not attend the financial remedy hearings in the divorce proceedings. His attendance at the interim hearing was excused and he filed evidence in accordance with the court’s directions.
The wife attended without legal representation. She was not sworn in and she alleged for the first time that the husband had access to a trust fund. An interim order was made requiring him to pay £10,000 per month in periodical payments.
The husband did not attend the final hearing. Directions were made requiring the wife to file a statement, including a list of assets. The husband was given five weeks to serve a statement in reply.
However, the wife filed her statement only eight days before the hearing and did not serve it on the husband. He filed a number of documents, but none of them were referred to by the judge.
A final order was made ordering him to pay the wife a lump sum of over £3m plus arrears of periodical payments. Enforcement orders were made on four judgment summonses resulting in an order for the husband’s committal to prison.
The Court of Appeal has now ruled that the final remedy hearing was procedurally unfair.
Sir Ernest Ryder, senior president of tribunals, said the husband had missed out on ‘elementary procedural protections’ because financial orders were made against him without a chance to respond.
He said: “Had the court made directions to abide the event of the husband’s continuing absence, they could and should have included a warning that inferences of fact might be drawn from his absence.
“That would have anticipated any deliberate or tactical absence and set the scene for the court to act proportionately: ie to undertake the final hearing in his absence without adjournment and drawing such inferences as might be reasonable.
“No real attempt at active case management by reference to the Family Procedure Rules and Practice Directions was attempted. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that good practice was not a feature of the management of this case.”
The final order was set aside and the wife’s application for financial remedy is to be re-heard by a specialist family judge.
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