A Family Court judge has made a public plea for parties to stop using section 25 statements to make personal attacks on their former partner.

In lengthy introductory comments to his ruling in WC v HC (Financial Remedies Agreement), Mr Justice Peel said the wife’s statement ‘crossed the line and descended into a number of personal, and prejudicial matters’ directed at her ex-husband which were irrelevant to the matters at hand. The criticism was one of a number of issues raised about the preparation of documents that went beyond what was acceptable – and few of which made any difference to the material aspects of the case.

He reminded the parties – and other litigants in a similar situation – that statements should contain evidence and not include argument or rhetoric.

The judge said: ‘Parties, and their legal advisers, may be under the impression that to describe the other party in pejorative terms, and seek to paint an unfavourable picture, will assist their case. It is high time that parties and their lawyers disabuse themselves of this erroneous notion. Judges will deal with relevant evidence, and will not base decisions on alleged moral turpitude.’

Mr Justice Peel

Mr Justice Peel also criticised parties for over-long statements and 'eleventh hour spreadsheet analysis of expenditure'

Source: Avalon

Peel said the wife had produced a statement that was 33% longer than the husband’s, using smaller type and spacing to squeeze 27 pages into the 20 page-limit set at the pre-trial review.

This was ‘completely unacceptable’, the judge said, and the wife’s legal team should not have allowed it to happen.

‘Court orders, practice directions and statements of efficient conduct are there to be complied with, not ignored,’ said the judge. ‘The purpose of the restriction on statement length is partly to focus the parties’ minds on relevant evidence, and partly to ensure a level playing field. Why is it fair for one party to follow the rules, but the other party to ignore them?’

The introduction outlined that the working day before the hearing, the husband served on the wife a financial analysis of matrimonial expenditure consisting of thousands of entries. The wife’s lawyers objected to the late receipt but were able to respond with a schedule of their own.

The judge noted: ‘I deprecate the practice, which appears to be prevalent, of lawyers producing at the eleventh hour spreadsheet analysis of expenditure during the marriage (and/or since separation) based on primary documents such as bank and credit card statements which have been in their possession for many months.

‘If an exercise such as this is to be relied upon, it must be provided well in advance of the final hearing (I suggest before the pre-trial review or final directions hearing) so that the issues, and evidence, can be properly identified and case managed.’


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