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19 November 2014

Couple rack up legal bills of nearly £1m fighting divorce battle (over assets worth just £2.9m)

A businessman and his estranged wife ran up legal bills of more than £900,000 while fighting over assets worth less than £2.9 million, a High Court judge heard, The Telegraph reports.

Mr Justice Mostyn said the couple had spent nearly a third of everything they had built up over 18 years funding litigation.

The judge said more than £150,000 had been spent employing forensic accountants to value the man's business interests.

He said the couple's dispute over who should get what following a separation was "easily settleable" and he said he was "almost lost for words" at the scale of the "madness".

Mr Justice Mostyn has raised concerns about the "appalling state of affairs" in a written ruling on the case following a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in Manchester.

The judge did not identify the couple but he said they had two teenage children and said the man was 54 and the woman 44.

He said they had married in the 1990s and separated in 2011 and had assets amounting to nearly £2.9 million.

"I must confess to have been almost lost for words when the scale of this madness was revealed to me," said Mr Justice Mostyn

"They have spent a total of £920,000 in costs. Of this they have spent ... £154,000 on forensic accountants valuing the husband's business interests.

"They have spent on costs nearly a third of everything they built up over 18 years."

The judge added: "The result has been to make a case that was surely so easily settleable almost impossible to compromise."

He said he had presided over a seven-day trial where the "principal focus" had been a "bitter war of recrimination and denunciation about who was more at fault for this appalling state of affairs".

Mr Justice Mostyn said the £920,000 spent on costs had reduced the couple's total assets to a little under £2 million

He concluded that the woman should get assets worth just over £1 million and the man, who had spent £182,000 more on costs that his estranged wife, just under £900,000 worth of assets.

"The upshot will be that from the pre-costs starting point of £2,885,000 the wife will receive £1,123,500 (38.9 per cent of the assets); the lawyers and experts will receive £920,000 (31.9 per cent); and the husband £841,500 (29.2 per cent)," said the judge.

"These figures speak for themselves."

He added: "Such a result should not be allowed to happen again."

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