Press Release: Court of Appeal judgment - Arbili v Arbili – unlawfully obtained information and division of assets on divorce
Lois Langton and Stacey Nevin of Howard Kennedy LLP have successfully acted for the wife in the Court of Appeal decision of Arbili v Arbili  EWCA Civ 542. Bruce Blair QC and Mathew Brunsdon-Tully were instructed on behalf of the wife.
The husband had brought two appeals arising from the Financial Remedy proceedings heard by His Honour Judge Horowitz QC in May and December 2013: He challenged:
The case centred upon two properties in the South of France and whether the Judge was right to treat those differently. One property is owned by the wife’s parents and is subject to a Family Trust which will benefit the wife and her siblings upon her parents' death; the other was owned by the husband but occupied by his parents. The husband argued that the Judge was wrong to exclude the wife's parents’ property but to include his property in the net assets available for division.
The case took a further twist when the husband engaged a French “facteur” which ultimately led to an enquiry agent helping himself to the wife’s emails and passing them on to the husband. The husband sought to rely on this unlawfully obtained information to set aside the Judge's Order on the basis that he alleged it showed non-disclosure by the wife. The Judge had refused the husband’s application which led to the second strand of his appeal. One complaint of the wife was that the husband had failed at any stage to reveal the circumstances by which he came by the information.
The Appeal was heard by Lady Justice Macur and Sir Bernard Rix in April and both appeals were dismissed.
Lady Justice Macur observed that: “there is nothing in these grounds for appeal that amounts to anything other than a complaint that the Judge did not find in favour of the husband's case”.
She went on to say that the “reality of this case as described clearly indicates that the Judge assessed the fairness of the case to be needs not equality” and found that the Judge had given “adequate reason” for the departure from equality in order to meet the needs of the wife and child.
Lady Justice Macur was equally dismissive of the second part of the husband's appeal and found that the Judge had complied with the judgment and guidance in the Imerman case. She observed: “In short, the manner in which the materials were obtained; the husband’s persistent failure to candidly describe the means utilised to do so; the wife's subsequent and corroborated disclosure; apparent lack of, or minimal relevance to the issues in the case, not least by subsequent events; the delay; and the costs... all pointed to stopping the matter from proceeding further" and she concluded that the Judge's decision fell "well within the reasonable band of discretion afforded to him.”
Lois Langton, a partner in the Family team at Howard Kennedy commenting on the decision said: “My client is relieved that common sense has prevailed and that the husband’s appeals have been comprehensively dismissed. The emotional and financial burden of these proceedings, coupled with the intrusions into her privacy, has been unspeakable for both her and the parties’ daughter. In particular, it was clear from the unequivocal guidance in the judgements of Imerman and UL v BK as to the proper way in which parties should go about dealing with illicitly obtained information, and the judgment in this case has reaffirmed the process to which practitioners must adhere.”
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Matt Baldwin, Coast Communications
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