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Court makes civil restraint order against ‘obsessive’ litigant in financial remedies case

Lack of objective legal advice a consequence of withdrawal of legal aid

Mr Justice Holman has made an extended civil restraint order against a wife whose approach to litigation had been described as "obsessive, or obsessional, and indeed irrational'".

In Welch v Welch [2015] EWHC 2622 (Fam) Holman J said:

"Frankly, this bitter and intense litigation must be closed to the maximum extent possible, subject only to variation of maintenance ... It is quite extraordinarily destructive."

The judge noted that the proceedings had also been "phenomenally expensive". Mrs Welch now owed a costs debt to Mr Welch of around £70,000 in addition to a debt of £441,000 to Withers. He added that "the very idea that she should now be permitted to start collateral litigation against [the husband] in the Queen's Bench Division is, in my view, beyond contemplation".
The history of the litigation is set out in Holman J's judgment.

Holman J excluded from the ambit of an extended civil restraint order the making of any application to vary the current level of periodical payments, and/or for the discharge of the suspension of the payment of maintenance imposed by an earlier order.

The judge noted in conclusion:

"Further, there is an acute problem which now arises in these situations since the virtual total withdrawal of legal aid in private family law litigation.  ... That has the effect that far too often we are now faced with days like yesterday and today in court.  It is largely the responsibility of Mrs Welch, and in the words of District Judge Hess, her obsessive and irrational approach to these proceedings, but it may also be in part due to the denial to her of any publicly funded legal advice."

The terms of the order are set out in the judgment.