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Wife must leave house she turned into a ‘fortress’

Appeal against order for sale of matrimonial home dismissed

A wife who was said to have turned her £2m into a 'fortress' has been told by the Court of Appeal that an order that the house be sold and the proceeds of sale shared with her former husband must be enforced.

According to a report in the Evening Standard, at financial remedy proceedings following divorce it was ordered in December 2013 that the house should be sold and proceeds divided by the parties, Therese St Clair Marshall and Nicholas Marshall, in order to achieve a clean break.

Mrs Marshall refused access to the property to her husband or to valuers. In November 2014 she was held to be in contempt of court, her arrest was ordered and bailiffs were instructed. They too were refused access.

According to the Evening Standard, in the Court of Appeal Mrs Marshall challenged the original order and a further order for costs in the sum of £75,000 made against her.

She told the court:

"[Y]ou are going to throw me out on the street. The order is dishonest. ...?[I]t has been obvious from the start that this was about punishing me in some way."

Ann Hussey QC, of 1 Hare Court, representing Mr Marshall, told the court:

"Mrs Marshall admits to game-playing and this court should not indulge her further. Mr Marshall has continued to meet the mortgage and outgoings on the property. This has caused inevitable financial strain. The former matrimonial home should have been sold by now and both parties re-housed and launched on a new life."

McFarlane LJ, giving the judgment of the Court, said:

"It is absolutely plain that there is no merit at all in any of the appeals that she seeks to bring."

Accordingly, Mrs Marshall's appeal was dismissed and McFarlane LJ said that the order must be enforced. Mrs Marshall was ordered to pay £5,000 towards the costs of the appeal.

Alex Carruthers, divorce lawyer and founding partner of Hughes Fowler Carruthers, noted:

"Often the family home has strong emotions attached to it but it also holds the majority of the family wealth. Selling it can be essential but heart wrenching.

"Divorces often bring out the baser instincts in individuals, no holds barred protection of one's home being one."

Hazel Wright , a partner with Hunters incorporating May, May & Merrimans commented:

"Judges are at a loss to know how to enforce court orders without threatening prison. But prison is expensive for the State, and not going to solve the disobedience.

"If the judgement requires a house to be sold, it is time to use the civil courts' powers of eviction via bailiffs rather than threaten prison. Combining the powers of the civil courts and the family courts is more cost-effective and quicker."

The Evening Standard report is here.