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V V v V V [2022] EWFC 46

This judgment concerned the attribution and division of costs following final determination of a W’s needs-based claim in a short and childless marriage.

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For a summary of the main issues in this case see Nick O'Brien's summary here

The total combined costs were £1.2 million. The parties' marriage was found to have lasted no more than 5 months. The combined costs equated to around £8,000 spent for every day that they had been found to have been in a relationship.

At the conclusion of the main proceedings, Peel J considered W's claim on a needs basis. He ordered that H pay W £750,000. The £750,000 included a sum of £237,000 to enable W to clear her net liabilities, mostly comprising legal costs.

The court determined it would deal with costs separately. At this hearing, H sought a cost order against W in the sum of £450,000. The net effect of the court's final judgment was that H had been ordered to pay W's costs in full - W sought no alternation of this.

The court noted that H had failed to disclose to W his pre-sales in units in AB Company in the middle of the litigation. This amounted to litigation conduct relevant to costs (FPR 2010 r. 28.3(6) and (7) and PD28A para 4.4). However, W had failed in her case on pre-marital  cohabitation that would lead to a sharing claim. W was also found to have been guilty of misconduct causing H financial losses, probably running into the tens of millions.

The court noted that both parties had made open offers that fell far from the final determination. H's final offer to W being £400,000 minus what he had paid towards W's costs, which would result in W receiving nothing further. W's final offer had been that H pay her £6m. Her final award of £750,000 falling far below this.

Recent decisions of the Court of Appeal and in the High Court have concluded that it is not unfair for a cost order to result in a party found to be guilty of misconduct receiving a sum less than his/her needs would otherwise demand (see Rothschild v de Souza [2020] EWCA Civ 1215, Traherne v Limb [2022] EWFC 27 and WG v HG [2018] EWFC 70).

Peel J concluded that it was appropriate for W to make a contribution towards H's costs of £100,000 notwithstanding that this would invade her needs-based award. The court concluded that how W trimmed her needs on the basis of this order was a matter for her.

Case summary by Rachel Cooper, Barrister, Coram Chambers

For full case, please see BAILII