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Big Money Divorce Judge Stamps on Husband’s Delaying Tactics

It is sadly not unheard of for litigation to be used as a delaying tactic to defeat, or at least put off, compliance with court orders. A judge detected just such a manoeuvre by a husband in one big money divorce case but would have none of it.

A husband and wife had agreed a divorce settlement whereby she was to receive the family home and a lump sum of £800,000. The husband was given two years in which to raise that sum but agreed to pay the wife maintenance of £50,000 a year in the interim. The agreed order, which was approved by a judge, ran to four typed pages and had been drafted by distinguished barristers for each side.

The two-year deadline had come and gone and £585,000 of the lump sum remained to be paid. The wife had therefore launched proceedings in Switzerland in a bid to enforce the debt against a property there which the husband owned. His response was to apply to the High Court for declarations as to the correct interpretation of the agreed order which he hoped would assist him in the Swiss proceedings.

In rejecting that application, the Court found that it was patently an unedifying example of procedural or tactical manoeuvring which was designed to avoid, or further delay, payment to the wife of the balance of the lump sum. The money was long overdue and the husband was in prolonged breach of his duty to pay. In those circumstances, the Court was not prepared to grant the husband any relief.

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