A senior judge has likened a as they fight over the fai ess of their £26million divorce settlement. He told them: “It seems to me almost puerile; these very rich people distrusting and disliking each other intensely, so somebody has to come into the nursery to make some rules to dissipate all this nonsense.” “I simply cannot understand how the parties can litigate with such profligate extravagance.”
Mr Justice Thorpe said the case was “almost puerile” and someone was needed to “come into the nursery” and sort out their “nonsense”.
He criticised the “completely disproportionate” legal bills spent on the case by Mark Evans, a highly successful American entrepreneur, and his estranged wife Jenifer.
Judges were told that Mr Evans, 47, and his wife, 46, were “penniless” when they married in 1985. But they went on to make a fortune through a company called Confluence, based in Pittsburgh, which makes computer software that allows fund managers to track their investments automatically.
The couple, who have two teenage daughters, separated in July 2010 and Mrs Evans obtained a decree nisi – meaning that the court saw no reason to block the divorce – in April last year.
She was awarded assets worth £26m, after her husband’s shareholding in Confluence was valued at £40m and their shared assets put at £12m. But Mrs Evans then successfully applied to have that ruling set aside and the couple are still waiting for another hearing to divide their wealth.
In the meantime she went to the Court of Appeal to block the decree absolute – the legal document ending her marriage – on the grounds that she needed a “cast-iron guarantee” that her husband’s shares could not be dispersed.
Her barrister, Charles Howard, QC, wa ed that otherwise there was a “very considerable risk” that the “great bulk” of the money built up during their marriage could be kept from her. If the divorce were finalised before a fresh judgment on how their assets should be divided, she could be left “sitting on an empty judgment”.
“We are worried the wife is not going to get her share of Confluence,” the barrister told the Appeal Court on Monday.
“Once there is a decree absolute, the husband could transfer all of the shares to a new wife, without board approval, and unravelling that would be very very difficult.”
He added: “The parties lived an opulent lifestyle during the latter years of the marriage, having homes in the UK, the US, and the Turks and Caicos islands. “They enjoyed the use of private jets and first-class travel and retaining personal assistants and household staff.”
However her husband’s lawyers insisted the shares were not about to be sold. “My client is prohibited from dealing in these shares by an injunction,” said Martin Pointer, QC. “When the company has sufficiently grown to satisfy the investors, they will decide to sell and the husband and the wife will benefit.”
Their dispute was then derided by Mr Justice Thorpe, who has previously criticised the strain placed on Britain’s courts by wealthy foreigners.