A ‘highly educated’ couple spent over half a million pounds on ‘destructive and disproportionate’ divorce proceedings, an appeal judge has revealed in a judgment refusing to change the financial outcome of their case.
Solicitor Melanie Panzone and City worker Jonathon Read have spent five ‘emotionally bruising’ years fighting over money and their two children, according to a judgment by Lady Justice King, Lord Justice Moylan and Lord Justice Leggatt.
The latest appeal related to a flat in Panama, worth just under £300,000. In 2017, a district judge ruled that Mr Read was the sole beneficial owner of the flat. As a result, the flat was ruled a matrimonial asset to be split between the couple, and Mr Read was ordered to pay £150,000 to his ex-wife. He added that Mr Read seemed to enjoy court process, which allowed him to 'wind the wife up'.
The district judge also issued an avoidance of disposition order, setting aside a purported transfer of the flat by Mr Read to his mother, Mrs Read. Such an order is made if a transaction is presumed to be intended to defeat the opposing party’s claim.
Mr Read’s mother subsequently appealed the order and was rejected. She then appealed again on the grounds that her son was not sole beneficial owner of the flat and that the district judge was not entitled to make the avoidance of disposition order.
During the original hearing, Mr Read argued that the Panama flat had been a gift to his mother and was therefore not a matrimonial asset. However, his ex-wife claimed the flat was used as a family holiday home and ‘at no point had there been any suggestion that the property would be a gift for Mrs Read’.
Appeal judge King J set aside the avoidance of disposition order, stating it 'did not bite'.
However, she was ‘satisfied that the district judge found as a fact that the husband was the sole beneficial owner of the Panama property at all relevant times’. As a result, she ruled Mr Read would still have to pay his ex-wife £150,000. Moylan J and Legatt J agreed.
The latter stated: ‘When this overlay is stripped away, the financial outcome of the case remains the same, except – and it is a big exception – for the incurrence of substantial legal costs on two appeals.’