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Divorce Case Law Update

VW v BH (contested divorce proceedings)(2018) EWFC B68.

Divorce is a difficult and stressful process.  Divorce trials are thankfully rare; there are only about twenty divorce trials a year from an average 101,669 divorces (2017 figures).  The trial Judge said this case, VW v BH, was extraordinary and she was right.

It was a long marriage of 35 years at the point of separation in March 2017.  The couple had three adult children.  The wife, VW, petitioned for divorce on the fact of her husband’s adultery. He, BH, admitted to having had an adulterous affair with his wife’s best friend for some 22 years of the marriage.  Notwithstanding his admission BH defended his wife’s divorce and applied for his own divorce alleging that his wife had behaved unreasonably.  So how could the husband maintain this stance?  VW could not rely on her husband’s adultery if she had cohabited with him for a period of more than six months after the date on which she knew of the adultery.  The husband’s case was that the wife had known about his adultery for several years and so could not rely on it.

The trial of the two divorce petitions was listed for three days initially to begin in September 2017.  The trial was adjourned after the first day when, bizarrely, the husband claimed he had been assaulted in a remote location by henchmen instructed by his wife and that he had sustained injuries.  When the trial restarted in November the Judge rejected the husband’s allegations regarding the reasons for the adjournment.  He failed to produce any relevant medical evidence.  There were several witnesses including the sons of the husband’s adulterous partner, Ms Y.  The husband’s and wife’s youngest daughter also gave evidence and was subjected to “excruciating”  cross examination by her father who was acting in person; this included asking her whether she had herpes.

The Judge said that the husband emerged from cross examination a “deeply dishonest man” who had “lied throughout the proceedings”.  His petition was rejected as his allegations were trifling and would not ordinarily be sufficient to prove an unreasonable behaviour petition. She found in favour of the wife, who had not known about the adultery until being told of it by the husband on about 8 May 2017. The wife may have been suspicious but that was not the same as actual knowledge.

More particularly the Judge went on to say “Mr H’s case has indeed been completely futile, a huge waste of money, a tragic destruction of family relationships, and all, in my opinion to satisfy Mr H’s own vanity and need to be in control”.  The Judge then added, “all he had to do was to not contest the divorce, a divorce he wanted, as virtually everybody else in the country does”.  The Judge went on to award the wife all her legal costs on an indemnity basis ie., without deduction.

This article is for information purposes only and is not legal advice. It should not be acted or relied upon and legal advice should be sought before applying any of the information in this article to any facts or circumstances.

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