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Judge criticises ‘nihilistic’ family law litigation

Mr Justice Peel has criticised the 'nihilistic litigation' conducted by the parties in Crowther v Crowther & Ors (Financial Remedies) [2021] EWFC 88.

The judge noted 'with dismay' that the wife's s25 statement was her 15th statement in the proceedings and the husband's his 26th. There had been 34 court hearings. The bundles (4 of them; a core bundle, a library bundle and two supplemental bundles) exceeded 6,000 pages.

The total costs stood at about £2.3 million. The wife's legal costs (excluding divorce, children, and occupation order proceedings, but including the costs of Admiralty proceedings and a preliminary issue referable to financial remedies) amounted to £1,427,606; the husband's (on a like for like basis) were £920,316.

He added:

"Each party thinks the other is, to use their own words, 'out to destroy' them. These proceedings have been intensely acrimonious. They, and their lawyers, have adopted a bitterly fought adversarial approach. I asked myself on a number of occasions whether the aggressive approach adopted by each side has achieved anything; it seems to me that it has led to vast costs and reduced scope for settlement. The toll on each party is incalculable (W was visibly distressed during the hearing) and, from what I have heard, the impact on the children has been highly detrimental."

Mr Justice Peel concluded:

"The only beneficiaries of this nihilistic litigation have been the specialist and high-quality lawyers. The main losers are probably the children who, quite apart from the emotional pain of seeing their parents involved in such bitter proceedings, will be deprived of monies which I am sure their parents would otherwise have wanted them to benefit from in due course."

For the judgment, click here.