Posted by Patrick Hart, Partner
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Judge laments ‘tragic’ waste of couple’s assets in £1m divorce case
A high court judge has bemoaned the £1m in legal bills run up by a former beauty queen and her estranged millionaire husband as they fought over how to divide their assets.
Mr Justice Holman raised concerns about the cash Russian-born Ekaterina Fields and American lawyer Richard Fields spent on legal fees after deciding who should get what share of assets totalling about £6m.
The judge said that when all assets had been taken into account, Mrs Fields would be left with a share of about £3.3m and Mr Fields – who earns more than £1m a year – about £2.6m.
He said Mrs Fields should get a £1.2m lump sum and maintenance payments of £320,000 a year.
But the judge, who made several unsuccessful attempts to persuade the pair to settle differences and avoid a public “boxing match”, said the money spent on lawyers could have been “better deployed”.
During the bitter court hearings Mrs Fields’ lawyers said she had been unfairly painted as “a rich, spoilt layabout”.
Lewis Marks QC said she had been unable to work because she suffers from medical conditions which left her so exhausted she needed to sleep for up to 14 hours a day at times.
He added that she required support to care for the couple’s two children, aged four and seven, because her illness made her so tired that she was unable to even lift them up if they fell over.
“This is not a lady who can be expected to go out and hold down a job,” Mr Marks went on, adding: “It’s not because she’s idle or indolent or has been indulged or spoiled.”
Mr Fields, who has been married five times, also suffers from serious health concerns.
The judge said that the couple “are rich but not, by the standards of today, very rich”.
Before delivering his judgment, he told the court: “This is a case which should have been very easy to settle. There’s more than enough assets to provide more than adequately for both of them.
“That would have avoided courtroom confrontation and publicity but despite repeated opportunities to settle the parties have not been able to agree on a negotiated outcome.
“Instead they have spent over £1 million in legal costs which would have been even higher if the husband, a resident in the US, was not exempt from VAT. That £1 million could have been better deployed in meeting their respective needs and aspirations.”
The judge said he was obviously not privy to the details of their out-of-court negotiations and added: “How tragic that they could not identify fair mutual grounds.”
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