Ditchfield v Ditchfield [2023] EWHC 2303 (Fam)20 September 2023

Published: 03/10/2023 08:53


Peel J. Appeal by H of a final financial remedy order where on a clean break basis the assets were divided 62/38 in favour of W. Division was based on H having better future earning potential, H’s deficiencies in disclosure, H’s partner who could contribute to their joint economy and H withdrawing over £500,000 about the time of separation, which he solely benefitted from. W’s share was liquid, whereas H’s share was illiquid, and this was recognised by the judge. The total net assets were £339,000. The judge made a number of trenchant findings about H’s litigation misconduct, non-disclosure and general dishonesty.

H appealed on five grounds including that the judge’s evaluation of his income and earning capacity was based on speculation and against the evidence presented, and unfairly prioritising W’s housing needs over his own amongst others. The grounds of appeal were considered individually but compositely and in the context of the case as a whole. The question for the appellate court was whether the 62/38 division in favour of W, on the basis that H’s share was much less readily realisable, was sustainable.

Appeal was dismissed as the division was sustainable. H was to blame for the findings made against him due to his deficient disclosure, manipulative litigation conduct and his deliberate downplaying of his resources. H’s conduct inevitably exposed him to the findings and evaluation made by the judge. In light of this, all the relevant circumstances fell to be viewed through that prism; [32]–[39]. The £500,000 extracted by H at the time of separation did not entitle him to complain now that his share of the assets were less, and less liquid. These sums could have been applied towards basic living costs.

Peel J stated that the ‘findings of fact are unimpeachable, and [the judge’s] evaluative decision is firmly within the range of reasonable judicial outcomes available to him’; [41]. Two additional matters arose which were amended, namely the deletion of a provision giving a specified timeframe for H to repay his sister a soft loan, and the addition of a s 28(1A) provision.

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