Fair criticism?

Fair criticism?

Family analysis: Richard Todd QC of 1 Hare Court and Christopher Wagstaffe QC of 29 Bedford Row believe the court failed to address the issues in an appropriate manner in a case where a separating couple had amassed a combined legal bill of £1.3m on all aspects of their dispute (including the children proceedings) following what was described by the judge as 'titanic litigation'.

Original news

Seagrove v Sullivan [2014] EWHC 4110 (Fam), [2014] All ER (D) 61 (Dec)

The Family Division adjourned a hearing in respect of financial matters and required the parties to return to court with a single composite bundle of documents, in circumstances where the relevant practice directions had not been complied with.

What have been the key features of this 'titanic litigation'?

Richard Todd QC (RT): The dispute involved many different issues:

  • there was a dispute over the beneficial ownership of five properties (not one as the judge stated)
  • the dispute required an account of financial details which extended over 20 years
  • all of the equity in the parties' last joint home (Sundial House) was in dispute as the applicant said that the mortgage marshalled against just the respondent's share
  • there was a dispute as to the operation of the Limitation Act 1980 and the doctrine of laches in respect of a different property sold some 14 years before
  • there was an argument about equitable tracing of the equity of redemption from one property into another--there was another dispute as to whether there could have been equitable tracing through a company
  • there were disputes about the breadth of the Children Act 1989, Sch 1 (ChA 1989) property provision, and
  • school fees and child maintenance were also before the court

What were the issues around property?

Christopher Wagstaffe QC (CW): It was not just the whole of the equity in the property that was in issue but the valuation of the property as well. Without going into detail, the rise in house prices generally would indicate that the value of the relevant property was rather higher than

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