Litigant in person pays for poor conduct

E v F [2018] JRC067A

“Doting” mother living in a former derelict bungalow with three children, and driving an old banger and shopping in charity shops. In contrast the father, a controlling multi-millionaire with £12.5M assets suffering from life-limiting ill health, living in palatial accommodation, and using his financial power to extort sex from the mother in exchange for financial assistance.

It may sound like a salacious tabloid tale but this recent Jersey case raises some interesting points.

This was the unmarried mother’s application to secure suitable accommodation for herself and the children, money to purchase a car, and maintenance for herself and the children. The father decided not to have legal representation, nor legal assistance in the main, and frequently tried to frustrate the proceedings by failing to provide documentation, denying the parentage of the children and providing contradictory evidence.

As an unmarried couple, notwithstanding, that the father was very wealthy the Court’s ability to assist the mother was limited to providing for the children rather than providing for the mother’s independent benefit. Had the couple been married their lengthy relationship would undoubtedly have resulted in a much higher capital award for the mother, in addition to ongoing provision for herself and the children.

The Jersey Court adopted the principles of the English Court of Appeal case of Re P (Child: Financial Provision) [2003] 2 FLR and drew a balance between seeking to give the children a standard of living bearing some relationship with the father’s resources and lifestyle, and yet avoiding the provision of support to the mother as if it had been spousal maintenance.

The Court decided to make an award of £2.5M together with the purchase costs of £97,000 to enable the mother to purchase a five bedroom home of a similar standard to the father, for her to live in with the children until they were all 18 or had finished tertiary education. The father’s interest in the property would be secured by way of a judicial hypothec. Pending purchase of a suitable property the father was ordered to pay the rent on the mother’s rental property and a further sum of £2,311 per month, thereafter he was to pay whichever was the greater of £4,800 or (using the child support agency guidelines) 25% of his net income so long as the three children were minors or undertaking any education to include tertiary education, this percentage dropping to 20% when there were two relevant children and 15% when there was one. The father was also ordered to continue to pay the school fees of the children to enable then to complete their education. In addition the mother was awarded £2,000 to allow her to purchase a bed and furnish a room for the youngest child, and £10,000 to purchase a more reliable car.

The father had congratulated himself on saving money by not instructing lawyers. However his non-constructive behaviour throughout the case had caused significant delays and expense which had had the effect of preventing the resolution of the case at an earlier stage. In the light of his behaviour the Court made an order that the father pay all the mothers costs, incurred as a result of bringing her application, which were expected to be in excess of £45,000.

 

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