It is commonplace for one spouse to control the family finances and, while relations are amicable, this usually causes few issues. However, if the relationship falls apart and separation or divorce is in train, this is often no longer the case.
When a spouse attempts to put pressure on their estranged partner by denying them access to funding to cover their legal fees, this can certainly be a problem, but as a recent case shows, the courts take a dim view of those who seek to deny legal representation to others. The solution was novel and likely to prove effective.
The case in question reached the Family Court after the husband had dragged his feet over filing the required statement of financial means (Form E). Two months after the expiry of the extension date for producing the statement, it had still not been submitted, leading the judge to comment that ‘the considerable delay in producing the Form E after two earlier consent orders setting a timetable for its production is not excusable’. This is the sort of comment that seldom presages good news for the client about whom it is made.
The ire of the Court was further stirred up by the fact that the husband (a wealthy Omani) was some £100,000 behind with the maintenance payments he had been ordered to make. Nor had he made the payments ordered for his wife’s own legal representation – some £120,000 – whilst having paid his own solicitors in the region of £95,000.
The judge’s solution was strict. He issued an injunction against the husband, banning him from paying anything further to his solicitors until he had cleared the arrears due to his wife and paid pound for pound to her any legal costs he had paid to his (or any other) solicitors.