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The Cost Of Bad Behaviour in Family Law Cases

The level of problems the court faces from “unrepresented and malevolent litigants” and the sanctions available to address them…

…as recorded in Veluppillai v Veluppillai and others [2015] EWHC 3095. The recent family case of Veluppillai v Veluppillai and others [2015] EWHC 3095 (Fam)

In what should have been routine financial remedy proceedings on divorce, the husband’s ‘’abysmal’’ litigation conduct meant the case was listed for a four day High Court final hearing and there were over 30 hearings, including four appeals. The High Court publically highlighted how a litigant in person, the husband, behaved during the proceedings, which included sending abusive emails, making threats to his wife, her counsel and the Judge and assaulting both his wife and her counsel.  Mr Justice Mostyn’s (the High Court Judge) decided to waive the husband and wife’s right to privacy in order to expose the behaviour as a matter of public interest.
The husband was convicted of assault and failed to attend his sentencing hearing and went abroad.  He continued to send to the Court abusive emails, claiming he was fatally ill and demanding the proceedings be adjourned. He tried his upmost to defeat his wife’s claims.
Mr Justice Mostyn found that the wife’s proposal for the division of assets was fair and should be adopted. Upon the transfer of the two properties to her there would be a clean break as requested and due to the husband’s litigation conduct he also:

  • Made an indemnity costs order against the husband for £146,609, secured by an immediate absolute charging order; and
  • Regarded the husband’s emails to the court as applications and bearing in mind his other numerous meritless applications, made a civil restraint order of two years’ duration.

The Court is facing more and more problems due to many litigants not having representation at Court. This judgement makes quite clear that failure to have representation does not make it ok for litigants to act unreasonably and without regard during proceedings, that they will face sanctions if they do and that where it is deemed in the public interest litigants may lose their anonymity.