Divorces are very seldom totally amicable, but letting squabbles over the terms under which a marriage is dissolved run on and on can be ruinous, as a recent case shows. It involved a once successful businessman who was said to have been left with less than £5 in his bank account following 17 years of squabbling over money with his ex-wife.

During their relatively brief marriage, the couple shared a £1.8 million home and had an affluent lifestyle. Their children were still at primary school when the marriage was dissolved, but are now in their twenties. The ex-wife claimed that her former husband still owed her more than £2 million and that he had constructed an elaborate facade in order to hide his true wealth from her. He, however, was equally adamant that he was mired in debt, had almost no money or assets to his name and was reliant on the charity of family and friends.

His ex-wife argued that his failure to reveal his true financial position amounted to contempt of court and that his compliance with court orders should be encouraged by a suspended prison sentence. However, in dismissing her application, the High Court found that there was no reliable evidence that he had secreted away his assets.

He was to a certain extent the author of his own misfortune and had not always acted honestly. The Court found that he still owed his ex-wife in the region of £625,000, before interest, but could not be sure that he had the means to satisfy that debt. The Court had sympathy for the ex-wife, who had been left in a parlous financial position, and noted that years of relentless dispute had taken a considerable physical and emotional toll on both her and her ex-husband.


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