DP v EP (Conduct; Economic Abuse; Needs) [2023] EWFC 610 January 2023

Published: 27/02/2023 09:00


HHJ Madeleine Reardon. Finding of economic abuse and consideration of whether it met the level of s 25 conduct.

Parties aged 49 (W) and 59 (H), married 1994, separated 2018, children adults. Marriage void for W’s bigamy, but with no findings made and some mitigation.

Judge notes that with both parties working and ‘little to choose between them in terms of need’ this ought to be a case for equal division of their capital of £1.46 million. However, H argued that W defrauded him by dissipating or diverting assets. H was functionally illiterate and viewed parties’ financial resources as fully mingled and assumed that W was managing their joint assets for the benefit of both of them. He argued that W’s conduct amounted to economic abuse within the DDA 2021 meaning. He sought 63% assets. W denied the allegations and sought 45% assets.


W had sought to remove assets from the family 'pot' and to place them where H would not be able to access them. This fulfilled definition of economic abuse under DDA 2021. It involved exploitation of a dominant position, her literacy compared to that of H. Judge goes on to make specific findings about whether apparently dissipated assets were still available to W. She adds back a sum pursuant to the principles set out in Vaughan and refined in MAP v MFP and Rapp v Sarre, noting that:

‘In my view, W’s conduct, even if negligent rather than deliberate, was so serious that the high threshold established by those cases is met.’

At para 148:

‘The provisions of DAA 2021 are quite new and their role in financial remedy cases is yet to be established. Undoubtedly not all cases involving economic abuse will have the “gasp factor” required by MCA 1973, s 25(g). In concluding that this one does, I draw on my range of experience of the behaviours exhibited by spouses towards each other, within their financial relationships and otherwise. In my view the features which take this case out of the ordinary include H’s illiteracy and W’s exploitation of his consequent vulnerability; the deliberate nature of the deception perpetrated by W; and the fact that the behaviour was sustained over a considerable time period.’

While some of W’s conduct had financially measurable consequences, which was a requirement mooted by Mostyn J in OG v AG, too narrow an interpretation would render s 25(g) nugatory. W’s needs should be met but at a more modest level than would have been the outcome in the absence of the conduct findings. Awards H 53% assets (in W’s share are the add backs) W to pay 75% of H’s costs which would not prevent her meeting her needs.

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