A High Court judge has called for a cap on costs in family cases after describing the ‘apocalyptic’ state of expensive divorce proceedings.
In Xanthopoulos v Rakshina Mr Justice Mostyn described how the parties had already incurred ‘extraordinary’ costs of more than £5.4m in less than two years since the husband filed his petition.
‘Vast amounts’ of costs lie in the pipeline, such that the total bill is estimated at being between £7.2m and £8m. It was ‘difficult to know what to say or do when confronted with such extraordinary, self-harming conduct’, the judge said, lamenting that, despite attempts to tighten the rules, costs in family litigation generally continued to rise.
‘In my opinion the lord chancellor should consider whether statutory measures could be introduced which limit the scale and rate of costs run up in these cases,’ he said. ‘Alternatively, the matter should be considered further by the Family Procedure Rule Committee. Either way, steps must be taken.’
The court heard that the parties are Lazaros Xanthopoulos, 42, a Greek-born Russia resident who describes himself as a homemaker. His former wife, 41, holds a senior position with a Siberian supermarket business and was described in court as the 75th richest woman in Russia with interests worth more than £300m.
The parties were married in 2006 in Moscow and separated in 2020. A court in Russia pronounced a divorce in March 2021 on the wife’s application but a dispute remains over the financial remedy.
Mostyn said the preparation for the latest hearing could ‘only be described as shocking’. Skeleton arguments for both parties exceeded the prescribed 10-page limit and were filed late.
Despite rules restricting parties to a bundle of 350 pages of text, the judge was provided with four bundles coming to a total of 1,878 pages.
He said: ‘This utter disregard for the relevant guidance, procedure, and indeed orders is totally unacceptable. I struggle to understand the mentality of litigants and their advisers who still seem to think that guidance, procedure, and orders can be blithely ignored.’
Mostyn said he ‘struggled to find the language that aptly describes the exorbitance of the litigious conduct of the parties’.
Figures incurred were difficult to accept ‘even in a conflict between the uber-rich’, the judge said, but in this case the dispute was over two London properties worth £5m each and a sum of £11m in a Coutts account. The costs incurred in arguing over these sums were ‘beyond nihilistic’, Mostyn said.
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