Hobhouse v Hobhouse, Court of Appeal - Civil Division, December 08, 1998, [1998] EWCA Civ 1970,[1999] 1 FLR 961,[1999] Fam Law 212

Issuing Organization:Civil Division
Actores:Hobhouse v Hobhouse
Resolution Date:December 08, 1998
FREE EXCERPT

FC3 98/7554/CMS2, FAFMF 98/0723/CMS2

Neutral Citation Number: [1998] EWCA Civ 1970

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF JUDICATURE

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)

ON APPEAL FROM HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

FAMILY DIVISION

(MR JUSTICE CONNELL)

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand

London WC2

Date: Tuesday, 8 December 1998

B e f o r e:

LADY JUSTICE BUTLER-SLOSS

LORD JUSTICE THORPE

LORD JUSTICE MUMMERY

- - - - - -

CHARLES JOHN SPINNEY HOBHOUSE

Petitioner/Respondent

- v -

KATRINA JULIA DENZIL HOBHOUSE

Respondent/Appellant

- - - - - -

(Computer Aided Transcript of the Palantype Notes of

Smith Bernal Reporting Limited, 180 Fleet Street,

London EC4A 2HD

Tel: 0171 831 3183

Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)

- - - - - -

MR B O'SULLIVAN (Instructed by Awdry Bailey & Douglas, 33 St. John Street, Devizes, Wilts, SN10 1BW) appeared on behalf of the Appellant

MR N MOSTYN QC & MR V LE GRICE (Instructed by Messrs Thrings & Long, Bath) appeared on behalf of the Respondent

- - - - - -

J U D G M E N T

1. LADY JUSTICE BUTLER-SLOSS: I will ask Thorpe LJ to give the first judgment.

2. LORD JUSTICE THORPE: In this appeal the wife is 44 years of age. She is one of two children of Sir Denzil and Lady McArthur-Onslow of Mount Gilead in New South Wales. Within the appeal papers it is said that the McArthur-Onslow family were amongst the earliest settlers of that state and their property at Mount Gilead is extensive and historic.

3. The husband is the seventh baronet of Monkton Farleigh in Wiltshire. In 1978 the wife was admitted a solicitor in New South Wales and two years later she obtained an MBA from the Graduate School of Management in Sydney. No doubt that was intended to prepare her for contributing to the management of her family estate. It was in 1981, after her move to Mount Gilead, that she met the husband and a casual friendship developed between them. After an interval of almost a decade, they met again in 1990 and their relationship deepened.

4. In October 1992 the wife sent the husband as a birthday present a ticket to Australia. He used it in February 1993 and shortly thereafter they became engaged and they married on 5 June 1993.

5. One of the sadnesses of the case is that the couple were unable to have a child. I have no doubt at all that this bore on the subsequent deterioration of their marriage. In April 1995 the husband suggested to the wife, who had by then returned to Australia, that there should be a separation. However, the wife returned to this country. An attempt was made at a reconciliation and in the summer the couple underwent IVF treatment. That proved vain and certainly by September 1995 the husband regarded the marriage as at an end. It was not until May of the following year that he petitioned for divorce on the grounds of the wife's conduct.

6. The wife's response was an answer that merely denied the breakdown of the marriage. There was no movement through the summer and autumn and the District Judge gave directions for the trial of a defended divorce. However, in January 1997 the wife amended her answer to cross pray for a decree on the grounds of the husband's conduct and on that basis the marriage was dissolved by decree nisi on 1 May 1997.

7. On 8 May the wife filed her application for ancillary relief in Form A. I interpose that, to my knowledge, this is the first time that an ancillary relief case prepared under the pilot scheme procedure has reached this court. It demonstrates the efficacy of the new procedure in containing what could in this instance have been even greater unnecessary development.

8. Despite the restraining effect of the new procedures, at the first appointment on 11 August the wife's counsel stated that a conduct case would be developed. Thereafter no less than five affidavits were filed by one side or the other, dealing with the wife's case of conduct. At the same time the more necessary aspects of an ancillary relief application were developed to show that the wife had over half a million pounds that had been inherited from her grandfather, together with shares in a family company that were only likely to achieve their current value of £140,000 on the demise of her mother, plus the likelihood of inheriting about £1.5M on the demise of her mother. On the other side, the husband declared by a process of self-assessment a worth of about £8.5M in land, shares and cash. I say self-assessed because he very sensibly took what I would call the Thyssen defence, namely that he could afford any order that the court might make,...

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