In the recent case of Fz and Sz (and the Trustees of the CPL Pension Plan and SZA), the Honorable Mr Justice Mostyn makes plain that bad behaviour sufficent so as to amount to conduct under s25(2)(g) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 will not be tolerated.
In this case, since the breakdown of the relationship the parties have spent some 40 separate days in court and incurred costs in excess of £2m. Of that £2m, £560,000 was spent on the Wife’s attempts to force her Husband into leaving the former matrimonial home.
Unwisely it now seems, the Wife made not just one but two ex parte applications, both for non molestation and occupation orders. The first HHJ Altman refused to hear, directing it be heard on an inter partes basis but the second was granted ex parte.
Though it turns out that the allegation of violence upon which the application was based was untrue, until that was demonstrated, the Husband had no option but to appeal the order. In addition, the Husband also applied for a stay of his expulsion pending the appeal. For reason that were not understood by Mr Justice Mostyn, the stay was refused and the time and date for the Husband to vacate the property was adjusted to 6pm on Boxing Day.
On the afternoon the Husband was due to vacate the property, the Wife visited the local police station. The Wife says this was in respect of text messages yet the police log records a request for a police presence at the parties home to ensure that the Husband leaves quietly, as there had been a history of domestic violence. Mr Justice Mostyn found this ‘deliberately false statement’ to the police was ’very calculated’ which resulted in the Husband suffering a panic attack as he said goodbye to his children, whereby he collapsed and was removed by ambulance.
Whilst the actions of the Wife were found by Mr Justice Mostyn to be ‘exceptionally malicious and capable of amounting to conduct under s25(2)(g) Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, the Husband is seems behaved no better.
In the process of disclosure in the Ancillary Relief claim, the Husband made an unauthorised disclosure of part of the contents of the Wife’s Form E to tax authorities in the country where her parents reside, alleging fraud by them. In addition, the Husband made a report of the Wife’s father’s charity to the tax authorities and copied these allegations to the Foreign Minister and High Commissioner in the UK and a further complaint was made to the UK Charity Commission. Mr Justice Mostyn described these as ‘malicious acts which were all pieces within the gathering storm’ . Such acts were followed up by proceedings by the Husband against the Wife’s parents for the return of a sum of money, furnishings and a car.
Such acts, described as Mr Justice Mostyn as ‘exceptionally unpleasant’ also amount to conduct under s25(2)(g) Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
So, in the words of Mr Justice Mostyn, ‘this tale leads to a number of lessons needing to be learned. The first lesson is that the initial move in divorce can colour the rest of the case. The second lesson is that every action tends to give rise to an equal and opposite reaction. The third lesson is that an allegations of dishonesty should be very carefully considered before they are made.
Family practioners, you have been warned!