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“Nihilistic Litigation” in the Family Court – A Cautionary Tale

The recent case of Crowther v Crowther & Ors (Financial Remedies) [2021] EWFC 88 serves as a stark reminder of why it is so important to take an approach to litigation that reduces and manages conflict and confrontation, where possible. In this case, the applicant wife’s section 25 statement (a narrative statement in proceedings for a financial order setting out a party’s case and referring to various legislative factors) was her 15th statement in the proceedings and the respondent husband’s 26th. There were 34 court hearings throughout the proceedings and the bundles (4 of them) exceeded 6,000 pages.

Moreover, despite having issued divorce proceedings over two years ago, the extreme level of bitterness between the parties meant they still had not reached decree nisi (the first stage) in the divorce proceedings. As a result, Mr Justice Peel was able to deliver a judgment, however, he was not able to make the (much needed) order in the case.

Mr Justice Peel said that the parties argued about almost every imaginable issue, no matter how trivial” and, therefore, unsurprisingly, the legal costs were enormous. In fact, the total costs were about £2.3 million, whereas the total assets in the “matrimonial pot” were £1.8 million. In the end, Mr Justice Peel was tasked with dividing the debts fairly between the parties, rather than any visible assets.

The intensely acrimonious stance adopted by each side achieved little other than to accrue vast and disproportionate costs and to reduce the ability for settlement. In addition, the emotional toll on each party was said to be visible and the impact that the proceedings had on the children would have been highly detrimental. Indeed, Mr Justice Peel said The main losers are probably the children who, quite apart from the emotional pain of seeing their parents involved in such bitter proceedings, will be deprived of monies which I am sure their parents would otherwise have wanted them to benefit from in due course.”

 Whilst this is an extreme and unusual example of an acrimonious family law case, it nevertheless serves to underline the importance of reducing and managing conflict between separating couples and parents. At Rayden Solicitors, we work with our clients to resolve issues in a constructive way, minimise conflict, put the best interests of children first and avoid court where possible. We understand that a family break-up is a fraught and difficult time for couples and parents and we won’t make the process unnecessarily harder, longer or more expensive for you. Instead, we will offer you guidance and practical tips on how to ensure that your family break-up has as little impact on you and your children as possible.

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