SW v SH & Ors [2021] EWFC 126

Philip Perrins, instructed by Vandna Sharma (now at Irwin Mitchell) and Paula Piquer Ruz, of Buckles Solicitors LLP, acted for the applicant wife in the recently reported case of SW v SH & Ors [2021] EWFC 126, originally determined in 2021. This was a complex application for financial relief under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984, following a Moroccan divorce that had been obtained by the husband by stealth and in deliberate and cynical breach of an Hemain injunction, which by extension denied a proper and fair forum non-conveniens assessment and the strong likelihood of an English financial remedy hearing following an English divorce.

The case concerned a very short marriage that produced one child and was determined against the background of very serious findings having been made against the husband in the related child arrangements proceedings. These findings included serious sexual assaults and other conduct that was aimed at controlling the divorce and financial remedies application and intimidating and harassing the wife to cease the proceedings.

The husband had a multi-jurisdictional property portfolio valued at approximately £6m, generating a significant annual income. A proportion of this was used by the husband to provide accommodation and financial support to two other women with whom he had children. 

The husband had executed a charge over the family home where the wife and child were living in favour of his brother and he had entered into a lease agreement in respect of all the rental income from his UK property portfolio which meant that it was diverted to a newly incorporated company, the sole director and shareholder of which was his adult daughter from a previous relationship. The wife applied to set aside the charge and lease agreement and the husband’s brother, his daughter and the company were joined to the proceedings for this purpose.

In his carefully-considered judgment, DDJ Burles found that the Moroccan award was insufficient to meet the wife’s and child’s needs; that the husband had not given full and frank disclosure of his assets or income, which were significantly higher than that disclosed; the husband had failed to abide by either the Moroccan order or the English interim maintenance orders; he deliberately disobeyed the Hemain injunction; and the charge in favour of his brother and the lease in favour of the company / the husband’s daughter were devices intended to defeat the wife’s claims and were set aside.

The judge ordered the husband to pay the wife’s litigation loans, inclusive of interest accruing, which had been high due to the husband significant misconduct, and a lump sum of £700,000 to in part meet her and the child’s housing needs and in order to capitalise her spousal maintenance claims over a short term. Provision was made on an outright basis on the particular facts of the case, including by reason of the husband’s conduct.The husband was also ordered to pay 90% of the wife’s outstanding costs, not covered by her litigation loan, on an indemnity basis, given his conduct and his strikingly unhelpful approach to the litigation, which was intended to make the litigation as difficult as possible for the wife and discourage her from pursuing her claims.

Full Judgment

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