England: Wealthy divorcing couple destroy lifestyle in ‘nihilistic litigation’
A couple spent so much on lawyers in a bitter divorce battle that they destroyed their lifestyle in what a judge has called “nihilistic litigation”.
Mr Justice Peel in the Family Division of the High Court said the visible assets” of Captain Paul Crowther, 55, and his wife Caroline, 51 were “so limited” that he “had to concentrate” on how to divide debts fairly.
The legal costs were, he said, “utterly disproportionate”. They had enjoyed “a very high standard of living”.
Married in 1996, they had operated successful shipping and aircraft firms. They had a £4.5m house in Landhurst, East Sussex and a £3m property in France.
They sought divorce in September 2019 when Mr Crowther claimed his wife was having an affair with a builder, referred to only as Mr X. Thereafter they engaged in 34 court hearings and argued about “almost every imaginable issue, no matter how trivial”, said Mr Justice Peel.
“They lived in a luxurious house in Sussex, bought in 2014 and sold in late 2020 for £4.5 million, owned a house in France worth more than £3 million, employed a housekeeper and full-time gardener, educated their three children privately, owned horses (for which purpose they employed a groom), a collection of expensive cars, and a private aeroplane,” he said.
He awarded Mr Crowther £77,414 of the surviving assets and his wife the remaining £660,961.
The judge stated: “The only beneficiaries of this nihilistic litigation have been the specialist and high-quality lawyers. The main losers are probably the children who, quite apart from the emotional pain of seeing their parents involved in such bitter proceedings, will be deprived of monies which I am sure their parents would otherwise have wanted them to benefit from in due course.”
The divorce has not yet concluded.