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When a divorcing couple can’t reach a financial settlement themselves they must instead rely on the family courts to make a final decision on the division of assets. As with any court proceedings there’s a strict timetable. In a financial relief hearing it’s crucial to assemble evidence of your needs and present your arguments at the appropriate time. If you are seeking to purchase a new home following the divorce for example, it’s common to provide the court with details of the price and location of several suitable properties. In the recent case of AR v ML the wife failed to produce any examples of suitable property during the course of proceedings. In a rather unusual step her lawyers tried to do so after the judge had made a decision. We discuss what happened below.


Changing A Financial Order

As we have pointed out before, family judges focus on reaching financial orders that are final so that the estranged couple and their children can have the highest degree of certainty around money matters post divorce. There are however limited grounds to set aside a financial order. These are when one side can establish that there has been:

  • Fraud
  • Material non-disclosure
  • A mistake
  • A subsequent, unforseeable event which invalidates the original order

If someone does want to set aside a financial order they should seek to do so without delay as it’s not something that is normally encouraged.


The Case Of Ar v Ml

During the hearing in the case of AR v ML the judge had been critical of the wife’s evidence about her housing needs. Although she stated that she could find an appropriate property in her local area for £525,000 she did not produce any evidence to back this up. The husband argued that £400,000 was sufficient to meet her housing needs. In making the financial order the judge awarded the wife received 49% of the total marital assets (amounting to just 412,000 after payment of debts – less than what she claimed she needed to buy a house). These figures were based partly on the fact that, even if the wife were awarded the larger amount she sought, there was no evidence that she would be able to use the money to buy the kind of property she wanted.

It may seem a slightly technical legal point but while the judge had delivered the financial judgment along the lines described above, the formal court order reflecting the decision had not been ‘perfected’ or drawn up and approved. And it was immediately after the judgment was delivered in court but before the order was drawn up and sealed that the wife’s barrister sought to introduce fresh evidence to justify her claim for a larger share of the marital assets that would enable her to buy a suitable property.

After listening to detailed argument the judge agreed to the wife’s request to be able to present this new information. Instead of being asked to finalise the order for the court’s approval the parties were given further directions – the wife to file a statement about her housing needs and the husband to file a statement in response. Perhaps unsurprisingly the husband appealed this ruling.


The Husband’s Appeal

The High Court judge who heard the appeal, Mr. Justice Mostyn was unequivocal in his support for the husband’s position. In what amounted to a strongly worded criticism of the trial judge Mostyn said that the decision was not based on any proper legal principle. If it had been reached in the exercise of permitted judicial discretion it was, in Mostyn’s opinion ‘plainly wrong’. He continued,

It was merely another example of counsel on behalf of a disappointed litigant seeking spuriously to try to get the judge to change her mind immediately after judgment has been delivered, to which the judge should not have succumbed.

The full judgment makes clear that a wish to adhere to the principle of finality in financial remedy applications weighed heavily on the mind of Mr. Justice Mostyn when arriving at his decision.



This case provides a warning to anyone preparing for a financial remedy case. Although the appeal decision was disappointing for the wife it does greatly strengthen the idea that – more than many other types of case cases – financial decisions made by the courts in divorce actions should be as clear and final as possible. Introducing evidence late on in the proceedings, when arguments have been made and appropriate conclusions drawn will only ever be permitted in exceptional circumstances. In his judgment Mostyn J. quoted an earlier commercial law case where the judge remarked that:

“The trial is not a dress rehearsal. It is the first and last night of the show.”

Mostyn J. believed this was a maxim that should apply strongly in all financial remedy cases. After all, financial hearings mean the parties incur enormous expense and experience high levels of stress. It’s clear that, if the wife in AR v ML – or her lawyers – had prepared with due diligence they could, without difficulty, have supplied the necessary details of housing needs at the first hearing.

Contact Us

If you are affected by any of the issues we have raised please call us for further advice on 44 (0) 20 7430 8470 or contact us here.



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Date: January 25th, 2020 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

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Date: December 23rd, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  Press coverage of recent celebrity break-ups has shone the spotlight again on the issue of pet custody following divorce and separation. Ant McPartlin’s split from Lisa Armstrong for example was – according to reports – significantly complicated by the estranged couple’s inability to agree who should get to keep their dog, Hurley. Avoiding this… Read the full article

Are Couples Staying Together Until No-Fault Divorce Is Introduced?

Date: December 16th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  Earlier this year the government made clear its intention to introduce no-fault divorce. There was a general consensus among political parties and family lawyers like ourselves that the current system is outdated and in need of reform. At present couples must prove that one of ‘five facts’ applies to them before they can successfully… Read the full article

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Date: November 18th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

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Cohabitation: What Happens When One Partner Dies?

Date: September 30th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  Back in 2016 we wrote on these Advice Centre pages about how the number of cohabitees nationally continued to rise – despite the precarious legal position of those who choose to live together without getting married. Three years on and parliament is considering a bill to give cohabitees certain rights and make provision about… Read the full article

Asset Sharing And Divorce: How Far Do Courts Go?

Date: September 22nd, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  Judges have a wide discretion to decide how to divide assets on divorce. This can inject a degree of unpredictability into disputed financial settlement cases. Where there are high value assets at stake the repercussions can be significant. This is one reason why we try to help our clients agree financial settlements. But if… Read the full article

Rules On Weddings Venues Look Set For Reform

Date: August 19th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  We all know that the choice of wedding venue can make or break the big day. Until now there have been fairly strict restrictions on where couples can marry and what form a civil wedding ceremony can take. As the Law Commission announces a project to consider relaxing rules on where and how couples… Read the full article

Pensions And Your Divorce: New Guide Highlights The Need For Caution

Date: August 12th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  A pension can often be the biggest asset in a divorce apart from the family home. We’ve previously discussed the complexity of assessing the value of a pension and dividing it during a divorce. Ensuring fairness when it comes to pensions and divorce is a fine balancing act.  So the publication this month of… Read the full article

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Henry and team were most professional, considerate and efficient when handling the financial proceedings owing to my overseas divorce. I recommend their services highly. International circumstance was at first to me most daunting and confusing, given each country had its' own unique approach. Thankfully Henry was knowledgeable of the law on either side of the seas and able therefore to provide best guidance and reasoning to me which enabled favourable settlement!

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I recently had a free initial consultation with Henry Brookman via video conference. He was considered and meticulous in his approach and gave me well thought through advice. He followed this up with a letter in writing summarising the advice he gave me. I would thoroughly recommend his services to anyone looking for legal representation in a divorce.