A Family Court judge has called on lawyers to refrain from using divorce filings to make personal attacks against their clients’ former spouses.
In a ruling, High Court judge Mr Justice Peel told lawyers that filings should only include “evidence,” as he told off a lawyer for filing a “long statement” that “crossed the line” by descending into various “personal and prejudicial matters.”
The judge’s comments come amid a legal battle between a 55-year-old Swiss national, from a “very wealthy family,” and his 52-year-old ex-wife.
The judge said lawyers acting on behalf of the wife used a small font to extend the amount of space they had available in their narrative statements, which they used to paint an unfavourable picture of the Swiss husband.
“It is high time that parties and their lawyers disabuse themselves of this erroneous notion,” Mr Justice Peel said.
“Judges will deal with relevant evidence, and will not base decisions on alleged moral turpitude or what Coleridge J once famously described disapprovingly (albeit in a slightly different context) as a “rummage through the attic” of the marriage.”
Chelsea or Fulham?
The ruling says the couple met while she was working as a PA at Goldman Sachs and while he was working in the City, having come from a family “which has a significant stake in a publicly quoted company”.
After marrying in 2004, the couple moved into the Swiss national’s house in London’s SW5 postcode, which covers Earls Court and parts of South Kensington.
The judge said their lifestyle was mainly funded through the generosity of the Swiss national’s father who would regularly give them large monetary gifts as a “tax efficient way of rewarding [his son] for his work” sitting on the board of his father’s company.
Nonetheless, the judge said that while the family were “affluent” they did not live an “extravagant super-rich lifestyle”.
The judge said the family did not “enjoy the expensive trappings” of the super-rich, such as “high-end cars” but instead had an annual budget of around £600,000 a year.
In concluding the case, the judge awarded the wife £7.45m as he claimed the sum would be needed to buy a house near the couple’s children’s schools in London’s SW3 postcode, which covers Chelsea.
The judge accepted the wife’s that she does not want to “start all over again” by moving to SW6 in Fulham. However, he rejected her argument that she needed a further £1.8-2m to buy a house in Switzerland.