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Purvis v Purvis [2019] EWFC 31

Mostyn J’s judgment on an application under FPR 24.12 for a letter of request to be issued to the US authorities for examination, unusually, of the respondent to financial remedy proceedings.

The husband applied under FPR 24.12 for an order that a letter of request be issued for the wife, who lived in the USA, to be examined and produce certain financial documents. Specifically, the husband questioned the wife's financial disclosure relating to the foreclosure of a property in 2008 and the liquidation of a business in 2013, both owned in Florida. He further suspected her income and resources to be higher than disclosed.

Mostyn J noted both the lapse of time since the events described (the parties had separated in 2005 and divorce proceedings were issued in 2009) and potentially relevant conduct, as the husband had a substantial criminal record for child sexual offences committed during and after the marriage and was serving a lengthy custodial sentence [6-7].

While applications under FPR 24.12 were typically deployed against a third party, there appeared to be nothing preventing their use against a party to proceedings nor to indicate that anything other than the well-established principles (derived from Charman v Charman [2006] 2 FLR 422 and aimed at preventing 'fishing' expeditions) applied [8-10].

In Mostyn J's judgment, this was manifestly an attempt at fishing and entirely conjectural in scope. The claim was highly speculative both as to staleness and having regard to the husband's conduct, and in circumstances where he had produced no prima facie evidence, which was presumably available in the form of public records, that the assets described actually existed [12]. It would be disproportionate and unlawful to grant the application. It remained open to the husband to invite the court to draw adverse inference should the wife not engage adequately in proceedings [13].

Summary by Iain Large, barrister, St John's Chambers

Read the full judgment Purvis v Purvis [2019] EWFC 31 via BAILII