A Judge has overturned remedy orders in a divorce case after discovering a series of procedural errors.
In Iqbal v Iqbal, the Court of Appeal found that the husband had not been given “elementary procedural protections” to which he was entitled, after financial orders were made against him without a chance to respond to evidence.
Mr Iqbal was ordered to pay his former wife a lump sum of £3.22 million within five weeks, arrears of periodical payments of £530,000 and future periodical payments of £10,000 per month in advance by standing order.
Sir Ernest Ryder, senior president of tribunals, said he was concerned about whether the Family Court has considered whether the husband had the means to make the payments.
The husband had further challenged the Family Court on the basis of the nature and extent of the physical evidence and the conclusions drawn.
He said he had been excused at an interim hearing in 2010 and had filed evidence in accordance with the Family Court’s directions. His wife did attend Court that day, and was found to have used evidence in which the husband had no prior notice of, and had no chance to respond to.
Consequently, Sir Ryder said the final hearing was “procedurally unfair” and that the remedy order made at the end of it must be overturned.
“Had the court made directions to abide the event of the husband’s continuing absence, they could and should have included a warning that inferences of fact might be drawn from his absence,” he said.
“That would have anticipated any deliberate or tactical absence and set the scene for the court to act proportionately: ie to undertake the final hearing in his absence without adjournment and drawing such inferences as might be reasonable.
“No real attempt at active case management by reference to the Family Procedure Rules and Practice Directions was attempted. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that good practice was not a feature of the management of this case.”
The case will be re-heard by a specialist family judge at the Central Family Court later this year.