A High Court judge has spoken out against the court time taken by wealthy international litigants engaged in ‘out of control’ divorce proceedings.

Mr Justice Holman used a judgment in an application for further maintenance to outline his concerns at the expense and hours accrued so far.

Holman estimated that Chai v Peng has so far incurred £1.6m in costs in England, and Malaysia, where the husband lives.

His wife of 42 years, who lives in a £30m property in Hertfordshire, was the first to commence proceedings in England and has so far incurred £920,000 in costs in this country alone.

Holman said English courts are subject to an overriding objective to deal with cases justly, but urged both parties to act before the ‘appalling litigation gets yet further out of control’.

The judge said the aggregate court fees paid by the parties to date are ‘a mere’ £2,355 – for which they have had all or part of six days of court time in England.

He added: ‘So far as the situation here is concerned, neither of them are British citizens. Neither of them currently pays any English taxes whatsoever.

‘Very serious issues ought to arise as to just how much time of an English court these parties should be able to take up on these preliminary skirmishes, whilst squeezing out the many needy litigants who need precious court time to recover their children from abduction or seek their return from care, and other such issues.’

A hearing of two days has been fixed for this spring, with a further 10 days of court time set aside in October to decide whether the divorce takes place in England or Malaysia.

Holman said the wife’s total costs for the last week’s one-day hearing were £55,000. The cost of the projected October hearing he expects to be ‘little short of mind-boggling’.

He described the litigation as now ‘completely out of control’ with ‘phenomenal’ costs and court time taken.

He urged both parties to sit down together and negotiate, but in the meantime ordered maintenance payments to the wife of £70,000 until the next hearing on 30 April, with a £100,000 limit on her legal costs.

Topics