GN v MA

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtFamily Division
JudgeMr. Justice Bodey
Judgment Date22 December 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] EWHC 3939 (Fam)
Date22 December 2015
Docket NumberNo. FD09P02003

[2015] EWHC 3939 (Fam)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

FAMILY DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand

London WC2A 2LL

Before:

Mr Justice Bodey (In Private)

No. FD09P02003

Between:
GN
Applicant
and
>MA
Respondent

Mr. R. Buswell (instructed by Selva & Co) appeared on behalf of the Applicant.

Mr. M. Glaser (instructed by Russell-Cooke LLP) appeared on behalf of the Respondent.

Mr. Justice Bodey

Introductory.

1

This is an application under Sch.of the Children Act 1989 dated 25th November 2015 by the mother (whom I will call "the mother") of a boy, whom I will call "C", who was born in 2008 and is aged seven. The Respondent is C's father, whom I will call "the father".

2

The mother's application is fundamentally for a substantial increase in periodical payments for C. The current order of mine is dated 1st March 2013 and is for periodical payments for C at a rate of £204,000 per annum. The mother puts the appropriate amount at something in the region of £780,000 per annum. She also seeks orders for various debts of hers to be paid off by the father, including certain legal costs; and for monies to be provided by him (additional to the periodical payments) for holidays and medical expenses in respect of C.

3

There are further issues raised in respect of a trust which owns the property in central London where the mother and C live, which I shall call "D Square". These include (a) for a direction for the replacement of her previous trustee to represent her and C's interests in respect of the property; and (b) for the provision of some £160,000-odd for repair works to the property. She says that she had to have those works done herself because the trustees, or perhaps the father's trustee (in the absence of a trustee to represent her) failed to do so.

4

There is a cross-application by the father dated 15th December 2015 for an order summarily dismissing the mother's applications today and for a s.91(14) order that the mother cannot make any further application for a given period of time without first obtaining the leave of the court. However, the father does not pursue his application under s.91(14) if the mother's claim is summarily dismissed.

5

I held several years ago, after a long contested hearing that although, as I found, the parties had gone through an Islamic marriage ceremony in 2007, that marriage is not recognised in this jurisdiction. Hence the mother's claims for C are under Sch.1 of the Children Act.

6

The mother has been represented at this hearing by solicitors and counsel. Her counsel is Mr. Buswell, who has said all that could be said for her application in the rather difficult circumstances of his coming to the case relatively afresh. The father has been represented by solicitors and counsel, his counsel being Mr. Glaser. That legal team has been in place throughout, by which I mean from 2009. Since then there has been voluminous and hugely expensive litigation over matters of income for C, over questions of a property for C (ie D Square) and the cost of funding it. The legal costs now run to several million pounds, almost all of which had been paid by the father, both for his own lawyers and for those of the mother. Other issues which have had to be determined by me along the way have been the satellite issue of so-called cost funding for the mother, which over the years became a quite complex issue.

7

This is a convenient moment to explain why the quantum of the orders in this case relating to C are, by usual parameters, so high. The reason is that the father, who is in his 50s, is a member of the Royal Family of a Middle Eastern country. I will mention at paragraph 14 below how I described his wealth in one of my many judgments in this matter. The mother, who is in her 30s, was born into an affluent family from a different Middle Eastern country; but now says, as per her statement of 24th November 2015, that she is 'in serious financial troubles'.

8

The parties never lived together. The father has never seen C, nor expressed any interest in him. The mother, therefore, bears the entire responsibility of caring for him and bringing him up. She wishes to do so in a lifestyle commensurate with that of the son of a member of a hugely wealthy Royal Family.

9

The Notice of Application and the mother's statement in respect of this hearing were prepared when she was acting as a litigant in person. Her statement runs to 5paragraphs and I have read it with care. It looks, although I may be wrong, as though she did have some professional help over it, by reason of the references to "[insert]" in square brackets in one or two places; but no matter. Whilst somewhat rambly and repetitive, for which the mother is not to be blamed, her statement clearly enough puts across her case in support of her Notice of Application.

10

The report of the case of Wyatt v Vince [2015] UKSC 14 was not in the bundle, nor was it discussed in argument at all, save that Mr. Glaser mentioned it en passant. It is something to which I will need to revert, but it will make better sense if I do so when I have explained the litigation history.

The litigation background until the Court of Appeal's hearing in December 2014.

11

Since the mother's current application seeks a holiday allowance for C (over and above the regular periodical payments) it is convenient to start with a judgment of mine which deals with just such an application. On 14th December 2012, I heard a Pre-trial Review prior to my hearing a few months later the full Sch.1 application. At that time the mother wanted to take C for a holiday to the USA after Christmas 2012. She said that this was a stressful time for her in the run-up to the main hearing and since the welfare of C depends on the mother's wellbeing, I did accede to that application. I ordered £21,000 to be paid by the father towards such a holiday in the USA. This was less than her claim for £46,000 against him, on the basis that she could and should have saved some of her then substantial interim periodical payments for C to put towards the cost of a holiday. I emphasised that this was "on the particular occasion" and I said at para.24 of my judgment:

"It is very important that it be understood that, for example, the Christmas 2012 holiday is not a benchmark; nor is it the way (ie permitting piecemeal applications for funding) that the financial arrangements are going to work once final orders at whatever level have been put into place."

12

Next came the final hearing before me, concluding on 1st March 2013. Both parties were represented by leading counsel and junior counsel. This was a very detailed hearing covering a substantial range of issues in depth and concerning most aspects of the final arrangements for C. I recorded in that judgment that C has a diagnosis of a syndrome called MBL immune deficiency, as well as of Kawasaki disease, another immune-system illness, and that he had been very ill in 2010. These features have, I accept, made the mother protective of him and have led her to be very choosy about the way she brings him up, for example as to the foods which she purchases for him. She says for instance that she has to buy a particular food supplement for him which costs £241 a month or just under £3,000 per annum.

13

By my order of 1st March 2013 it was provided, amongst other things, that the father must purchase the property in D Square, where the mother and C were already living under a lease. That property was to be held on arrangements to be agreed and to revert to the father after C ceased tertiary education, including a gap year. The purchase price of D Square was £3,450,000. I further ordered that various debts of the mother amounting to some £770,000 must be cleared off by the father via a lump sum paid to the mother for C's benefit, and, as I have said, I ordered periodical payments for C of £204,000 per annum or £17,000 per month. There was no order as to costs because the father had accepted responsibility for the mother's costs, save that he was ordered to pay her costs of the implementation of the order. That implementation was ordered to be down to and including a hearing which was fixed to follow shortly afterwards for finalisation of the way in which D Square was to be held and in respect of its maintenance, repair and so on.

14

Certain observations which I made in the judgment on 1st March 2013 are important. At para.54 I said this about the father, having first noted that he had never himself attended court:

" … it is to his credit that he has always paid the maintenance for C set by the court and has paid the mother's legal fee funding, except for a spat in early 2012 when arrears accrued. It is impossible to know the reality of his lifestyle, save to say that his family, the royal family, appears to rank pretty clearly among the super-rich and that as a senior member of that family he moves naturally within a world of opulence (the mother's word) where there is effectively little if anything which he cannot have, or have the use of."

At para.80, having referred to the existence of the mother's debts, I continued:

" … it cannot be in C's interests that his primary carer [the mother] is beset by the financial stress of debts which she has no obvious wherewithal to meet. She says she has no capital and it is not suggested that she has. Aside from the maintenance for C, she has no income. It is very much in C's interests, and will not impact on the father in any way which he will notice, that she should go away from this hearing with a fresh start, with a clear awareness of the budget within which she has to live and with her balance...

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