LF v DF (Financial Remedy: Appeal: Costs Debts in a Needs Case)
31st August 2021
Judgment: The former wife appealed against an order consequent upon a financial remedies hearing which had occupied several days in November and December 2020, following which the judge had circulated a draft reserved judgment which itself generated a request for clarification, further email submissions and ultimately a slightly revised approved judgment. The three live grounds of appeal were that the judge had been wrong to make no provision for the wife’s liabilities, had failed to step back and cross-check his award to ensure fairness, and had wrongly imposed a s 28(1A) bar. The latter ground of appeal was dismissed: the actual order made was within the available discretionary outcomes, and justifiable on the evidence. However, in the view of HHJ Mark Rogers, the practical impact of the judge’s exclusion of the costs liability had been to reduce the capital available to the wife for housing by about 37%, contrary to his own assessment of her housing need. The judge’s approach to the calculation of the correct needs-based lump sum had been wrong in law. As to the cross-check, failure to carry one out was not strictly capable of being a ground of appeal, as it was the ultimate decision that was under review, but, in the view of HHJ Mark Rogers, the judge’s failure to do so was clear and illustrated his failure to engage with the true discretionary process. The appeal was allowed and the lump sum order of £475,000 was set aside. The matter was not remitted; HHJ Mark Rogers assessed the appropriate lump sum award at £600,000. He directed that the husband should pay the wife’s costs of the appeal, the quantum of which was determined in a summary assessment, at the joint request of the parties.