Former spouses slammed by judge for ‘ruinously’ racking up legal fees

- Advertisement -

A divorced couple have been criticised by a High Court judge for spending “almost half” of their combined wealth on legal fees.

Mr Justice Cohen said Barbara Cooke, 58, and Michael Parker, 55, had “spent ruinously on litigation”, racking up costs of more than £3 million in legal battles over assets worth at most £6.5 million.

The judge said at a hearing in London on Friday: “This has been the most destructive breakdown in financial terms that can be imagined.”

Mr Justice Cohen said the couple “incurred costs in excess of £1 million” in Companies Court proceedings over the running of their company, litigation that led to bankers freezing the company’s accounts and “paralysed the business”.

Financial remedy proceedings have also cost the pair more than £1 million, with Ms Cooke incurring costs of £530,500 and Mr Parker £560,514.

Cooke – v- Parker divorce case – London
Barbara Cooke, 57, who has been involved in “ruinous” litigation with her ex-husband. (PA/Nick Ansell)

A judgment dismissing that claim held “the only probable explanation for the fire is that Mr Parker must have been responsible for it”.

Mr Justice Cohen noted: “There is no suggestion anywhere in the judgment that the wife had any knowledge whatsoever of her husband’s activity.”

The judge, who said Mr Parker had “wantonly blown” the £918,000 in a way that was “reckless and dishonest to a high degree”, ruled that figure ought to be counted against Mr Parker’s total assets.

He added: “But for his dishonest claim there would be nearly £1 million more in the family pot.”

Mr Justice Cohen said: “Thus, in total the husband and wife have spent over £3 million in costs on litigation they have initiated.”

The estranged pair previously ran BC Softwear, which was founded by Ms Cooke in 2001 and imports luxury towels and other items from Turkey to be supplied to upmarket hotels.

Mr Justice Cohen said Mr Parker had agreed “through gritted teeth” that shares worth 50% of the company, which had been transferred to him in 2006, should be returned to Ms Cooke, who described BC Softwear as “her business”.

Announcing his decision in the latest round of litigation, the judge ruled Ms Cooke must pay her ex-husband a lump sum of £800,000 in exchange, with a first instalment of £400,000 to be paid in “relatively short order”.

He added the pair had “expended, and in some instances wasted, on lawyers almost half of the surviving family resources”.

The judge concluded: “I have no doubt that each party will feel very hard done by as a result of this litigation. It has engendered appalling hostility.”

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

- Advertisement -

UK News

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Read the latest free supplements

Read the Town Crier, Le Rocher and a whole host of other subjects like mortgage advice, business, cycling, travel and property.