A judge has criticised the ‘woefully excessive’ expenditure on costs by a woman contesting a post-nuptial agreement entered into with her ex-husband.

In Traharne v Limb, Sir Jonathan Cohen ruled that Amanda Traharne should either dip into her income or raise a mortgage to pay a share of her costs of applying for the financial remedy order.

Traharne had incurred costs of more than £400,000 for what the judge said should have been a standard case and was attended at trial by leading and junior counsel and by a senior partner and an associate of solicitors Kingsley Napley. Leaving her with a personal liability of up to £80,000, Cohen said: ‘That W is left with a costs bill to pay is entirely the result of her prodigal expenditure on costs and her approach to this litigation.’

The court heard that retired barrister Christopher Limb had entered into the agreement with Traharne in 2018 after the breakdown of their marriage. She argued that the agreement did not now meet her needs and that she had a sharing claim in Limb's assets. She claimed that she had been unable to freely make the agreement because of coercive and controlling behaviour by her husband. This included verbal abuse, shouting and screaming and threats of physical violence, she alleged.

Limb denied all the allegations, saying that Traharne largely dictated the terms of the agreement. He denied she had any entitlement claim.

Cohen addressed each of the allegations in turn and found that Limb’s behaviour could not objectively be described as coercive or controlling, or that it led to her entering into the PNA.  ‘I very much regret that so much energy has been devoted to exploring this subject,’ added Cohen. ‘The emotional and financial consequences on the parties has been considerable. It has also been entirely unnecessary.’

The judge agreed that the PNA did not adequately meet the wife’s financial needs and ruled that she required a total payment of £378,545. During open negotiations she had previously sought a lump sum of more than £1m.

Although the judge rejected allegations of coercive and controlling behaviour, he said the 1981 judgment in Edgar v Edgar was still relevant as a starting point of the law on agreements. Lord Justice Ormrod said then that weight should be given to whether ‘undue pressure’ was put on one of the signatories or whether one party exploited their dominant position. 

Charlotte Leyshon, whose Cardiff firm Lux Family Law represented Limb, said the ruling reinforced that clients must be advised to negotiate ‘transparently and sensibly’ in order to avoid incurring unnecessary costs. ‘If they do not they cannot simply expect for their costs to be paid off by the wealthier party simply based on “needs” – ie clearing their debts going forward,' she said. 'It is a shot across the bows for practitioners.’


Justin Warshaw QC and Charlotte Proudman, instructed by Kingsley Napley, appeared for the applicant; Richard Bates, instructed by Lux Family Law, appeared for the respondent.