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Family team succeeds in defending high value claim in High Court

Posted: 17/08/2023

Family partner Gillian Rivers, assisted by senior associate Kate Molan and associate Katherine Harding, has succeeded in defending a husband against accusations of hiding over £27 million worth of assets in a lengthy final hearing in the High Court. 

The team acted for Mr Andrew Baker, a successful businessman in proceedings brought by his wife, Susan Baker, for payment of sums owing to her under the terms of a separation agreement dating from 2015. 

Due to Mr Baker’s health, he was assisted by a litigation friend in the proceedings. The parties had married in 1986 and the marriage produced no children. There was a dispute about the timing of separation but in any event, they executed a separation agreement in New York in November 2015. Mrs Baker subsequently petitioned for divorce in England in May 2021 and issued a claim for financial remedies on 4 June 2021.

Mrs Baker calculated that she was owed a sum of £9.34 million under the terms of the separation agreement and asked the court to order this award. Mr Baker’s position was that, due to a change in his financial circumstances, he should make no further payments to Mrs Baker and all claims should be dismissed. Mrs Baker’s team argued strenuously that the award that Mrs Baker was seeking would not leave Mr Baker in financial difficulty as he had £27.4 million of hidden funds. As such there were no real issues of law in the case, and the crux of the matter was whether or not Mr Baker did indeed have the asserted £27.4 million of additional resources. 

Despite finding Mr Baker to have been dishonest in his presentation of his position, Mr Justice Mostyn concluded that Mrs Baker’s allegations of hidden funds were not proven on the evidence and it would be wrong to draw inferences that Mr Baker did have such funds based on his dishonesty or demeanour, rather than on the evidence. 

Mr Justice Mostyn decided that Mr Baker should discharge his obligations under the separation agreement which (contrary to Mrs Baker’s submissions), Mr Justice Mostyn calculated at just over £1.4 million, along with a further payment for arrears of maintenance of just over £15,000. He also ordered Mr Baker to reimburse Mrs Baker for half of an expert witness fee and to make a contribution to Mrs Baker’s costs of over £1.4 million, of £200,000 in total, in light of Mr Baker’s conduct throughout the proceedings. The total award to Mrs Baker amounted to £1,633,795, a mere 17.5% of what she had been seeking.

Both parties’ legal teams received explicit praise from Mr Justice Mostyn for their 'skill, assiduity, and diligence' in the case. 

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