If you are getting divorced or, for that matter, involved in a business dispute, I would strongly recommend that you read the full transcript of the judgment handed down in the case of Young v Young.
The case has already been well publicised due to it’s highly acrimonious and high value nature but foremost because the husband has spent time in prison for contempt of court in refusing to comply with disclosure orders in the case.
Rather than recite the whole case at length, I have extracted some points made in the Judgment for quick and easy reference. Frankly, the most staggering aspect of the case is how detached from reality the parties became and in fact, in the case of Mrs Young, it also appears her advisers/backers. She incurred millions of pounds in legal and other experts fees, much of which was loaned or provided no win no fee, and it seems highly unlikely that Mr Young will ever pay these fees, even though the Judge indicated that it is likely he will order costs to be paid to the wife on an indemnity basis. Mr Young is an undischarged bankrupt and although the Judge estimated he still has control over assets of over £40 million, it seems doubtful he will ever willingly pay half of such assets to the wife, if in fact the Judge is correct, because it was extremely difficult for the Judge to do any more than estimate his worth, notwithstanding years of forensic accountant investigations, costing millions.
So, here are some extracts from the Judgment with my comments in bold :-
“She had therefore spent around £5 million without getting to the final hearing or having produced a final forensic accountant’s report” – the Judge pointing out the extraordinarily high level of fees incurred by Mrs Young
“Whilst I accept that this has been exacerbated by repeated changes of solicitors, in part as a result of the litigation funding issues, and that this case has been as complex as any I have dealt with, I consider the total amount spent to be completely unacceptable.”
“The Wife’s case is that he is hiding very considerable assets. She alleges that he is worth “many hundreds of millions of pounds” or even that he is worth “a few billion at least.” His case is that he is insolvent with a deficiency of £28 million.” – even by the standards of many financial disputes I have dealt with where the parties allegations of their respective financial positions is “poles apart” these figures are extraordinary.
“I remind myself that the burden of proof is on he or she who seeks to assert a positive case as to disputed facts, although it is for the respondent to the application to provide to the applicant and the court all the relevant information.” – this statement sums up why the disclosure aspect of financial disputes in these types of cases is so important. Without disclosure the other party is left having to ask the court to draw inferences, and this places the court in great difficulties, especially where assets may have been hidden in complex structures.
“On 9th April 2010, the Husband was made bankrupt on a petition presented by HMRC. There were a total of 20 creditors, claiming to be owed £27,772,128 excluding interest and costs. Of these creditors, HMRC said it was owed £1,607,321. On 9th April 2011, an interim order was made to suspend the Husband’s automatic discharge from bankruptcy. He remains an undischarged bankrupt. On 1st June 2012, the Wife applied to annul the bankruptcy. Registrar Barber transferred the application to the Family Division on 9th July 2012. On 2nd October 2013, I adjourned the application generally on the basis that the Wife could restore it if she obtained a significant lump sum at this hearing.” – even though Mr Young may well have his bankruptcy discharged, it seems unlikely to me that, given the history of this case, Mr Young will pay, even if he has control of sufficient assets. He may well decide that being made bankrupt a second time would be his “preferred” option.
“She has become utterly convinced that her Husband is a liar who has hidden vast resources. She sees conspiracy everywhere. She is convinced that the Husband engineered his financial meltdown in the early part of 2006 knowing that his marriage was to end. She believes this was with the sole purpose of keeping his assets safe from her claims” – Unfortunately, as can happen, the parties became so bitter about each other that fact and fiction can become difficult to disentwine.
“Doing the best I can, I find that he still has £45 million hidden from this court. As against that, I must deduct £5 million for his debts, making a net total of £40 million.”
Whilst this case is an extreme example of the worst kind, I (and I am sure most other specialist divorce lawyers are the same) have been involved in cases where, whilst the amounts have been much lower, there are similar echoes. This case clearly shows that there are no winners in these situations.
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