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Couple urged to end dispute that has cost £1 million to resolve preliminary issue

High Court determines claim over beneficial interest of shares in family business

Nicholas Francis QC, sitting as a deputy High Court Judge, has pleaded for a family embroiled in a legal dispute arising from financial remedy proceedings to end a conflict that has already involved more than £1 million in costs and caused "untold misery".

In Shield v Shield [2014] EWHC 23 (Fam) Mr Francis QC was hearing a preliminary issue as to whether the husband's and/or wife's shares in the family business are held on trust for the couple's son, Christopher, who had worked tirelessly, the judge found, to build up the family firm.However, Christopher's claim for a declaration that the shares are held on trust for him failed

Mr Francis QC said in his concluding remarks:

"I know that this is of course not the end of the matter, it is simply the end of the preliminary issue. I observe that, especially within the context of a family squabble, it is a matter of deep regret that a scheme could not have been agreed whereby Christopher would be rewarded in due course with the shares that he expected to receive, whilst providing his parents with resources during their lifetime ... Had Christopher failed to save and re-build [the company], then this phase of this bitter litigation would not of course have occurred, for there would have been no shares to argue over in the divorce between the Husband and the Wife."

At an earlier hearing, Mr Justice Holman had expressed despair concerning the dispute which, he said, "appears to be tearing itself apart".