LAWFUEL – The Guardian reports that a legal aid claim in a divorce battle demonstrates the inability of the British legal system to enforce divorce awards against rich former spouses when their wealth is tied up in trusts.
The case involves two children of a multimillionaire jeweller have been given legal aid of £30,750 to protect their interests under a family trust amid a divorce war between their parents.
The case, which has cost the parents, Iqbal Mubarik, 48, and Aaliya Mubarak, 47 – they spell the name differently – more than £4m in legal costs so far, raises doubts about the ability of England’s family justice system to enforce divorce awards against rich former husbands whose wealth is tied up in trusts and who are determined to go to any lengths to avoid paying out. The case has also occupied many hours of judges’ and courts’ time over the past nine years during which the courts have struggled to find time for other pressing cases.
Mubarik has run up a bill of more than £2m in costs trying to avoid paying his former wife, Aaliya, a lump sum of almost £5m, an amount the high court ordered him to pay nearly eight years ago.
Mr Justice Holman, the latest high court judge to grapple with the situation, described it as “about as bad a case as it is possible to imagine”. He said taxpayer funding of the couple’s two youngest children was “exquisitely ironical” because the pair “although resident here for tax purposes and liable to English taxation, manage to avoid paying any tax at all”.
The legal aid means test for children is based on their own income. Two of this couple’s four children are under 18 and are parties to the case.
As long ago as 2000, a senior appeal judge, Lord Justice Thorpe, remarked on the high costs of the case, adding that it was “little short of tragic folly that seemingly intelligent and civilised people should think that that is a responsible way to make use of the family justice system in this jurisdiction”. In October 2004 he described the costs, which have nearly doubled since then, as “perfectly shocking” and said he could only characterise the litigation as “insane”.