Mr Justice Holman said he was filled with ‘nothing but despair’ over the case, which has already racked up £700,000 worth of legal costs before making it to court.
He described the situation as ‘extremely tragic’ and ‘unedifying’ while presiding over a pre-trial hearing at London's High Court, warning that the costs could spiral as the case drags on.
Richard Shield, a millionaire engineering tycoon, has had divorce proceedings brought against him by his wife Susan, bringing to an end their 43 years of marriage.
The 72-year-old entrepreneur from Leicester made a fortune through his engineering business and property portfolio, before his son Christopher Shield increasingly took over management duties.
The case centres on a bitter dispute over whether Mr Shield favoured his son over Mrs Shield, 69, who owns 5 per cent of the overall enterprise, and their three daughters.
‘I have to say, as I leave this very long day, that I do so with a feeling of the utmost despair that this family could have spent three quarters of a million pounds just to get to this stage,’ Mr Justice Holman said.
‘They are likely to spend some hundreds of thousands of pounds in preparation for, and at the hearing of, the preliminary issue, and even that is only the preliminary issue.
‘This family appears to be tearing itself apart, and it fills the sympathetic but detached observer such as myself with nothing but despair.’
The preliminary aspect of this ‘awful conflict’ deals with whether the couple's riches are held in trust for their 35-year-old son, the judge said.
‘There appears to be an intense conflict within the family in relation to certain dispositions which were, or may have been, made some years ago by the husband, and which may appear to have favoured the son in preference to the daughters and to the disadvantage of the wife,’ he said.
During the hearing Mr Shield, who was recently named in the Leicestershire Rich List 2013, was described as having been ‘physically and mentally unwell’.
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