Finances on Divorce – How Not To Litigate

How Not To Litigate

Some of you may have read about the long running saga that was widely reported in the press: Young vs Young.

This matter which concerned resolving finances in divorce, finally concluded at the end of 2013.  Quite apart from the settlement itself, this case has gained the reputation for being an example of how NOT to conduct financial matters in divorce.  Mr Justice Moor himself described the conduct of the case as bad an example of how not to litigate as he had ever encountered. Given that Mr Justice Moor has been a senior member of the judiciary for 3 years this is quite an infamous tag.  

Briefly, Michelle Young sought £400 million pounds from her Husband, Scot Young.  He, on the other hand, claimed that he was bankrupt and had debts of £28 million, a huge differential of £428 million pounds for the Court to adjudicate

The case involved a massive number of 65 preliminary hearings (the normal number of hearing before the final hearing is 2) before the Final Hearing as well as extensive costs for experts, several spells in prison for Mr Young for non-disclosure and breaches of Court Orders and between £4-6 million legal fees for Mrs Young – which no doubt were payable from the capital element of the settlement awarded to her. Amazingly,  Mr Young remained  unrepresented throughout the proceedings.

Having dealt with the immense complexities of this financial settlement matter, Mr Justice Moor rejected the wife’s claim that Scot Young was worth “a few billion at least”  and awarded Mrs Young a lump sum of £20 million, as well as the arrears of maintenance amounting to £1,265,000.  A victory for Mrs Young?  I am not really sure that it is.  Whilst making this order for financial settlement, Mr Justice Moor also stated that unless Mrs Young was able to find further evidence to prove Mr Young had the money enforcement action against him was not available to her.  He also said that this order against Mr Young would exist for as long as he lived (perhaps giving new credence to the phrase ‘till death do us part’) – so encouraged him to make payment in order to move on.

Throughout the case, Mr Young has remained adamant that he is bankrupt with significant debts – I can’t see him making payment to his ex-wife anytime soon. So in essence, given the bar on enforcement action, this is, right now, nothing more than a pyrrhic ‘paper’ victory for Mrs Young.

Settling the family finances in divorce is one of the most emotionally difficult tasks that faces the separating couple. It is emotional because it brings up the tide of memories that both parties faced when building their lives together and creating their wealth.  Getting embroiled in lengthy, bitter legal proceedings will ultimately achieve nothing in the long run, other than a drain on finances.  Granted, the case of Young v Young is an extreme example – but a clear example nonetheless of the position that you do not want to find yourself in – throwing good money after bad and achieving nothing but a bit of paper from the Court

Seek specialist legal advice early on in financial settlements in divorce matters.  Strategise and plan  – this is the best advice I can give you when dealing with matrimonial finances.  Act early and lead the case, don’t follow and be led.  Taking control and retaining control is half the battle.  Get the right team on board and this will mean you stay ahead!  

Rupinder Bains

Pinder Reaux & Associates