Background: In my blog post She Squanders Her Divorce Settlement, so He Has to Pay Her Again–30 Years Later! I wrote:

“Get this: Dennis North gets married and has three kids. His wife cheats on him and they get divorced. Dennis buys her a house and investments as part of the divorce settlement, and raises the three kids himself. Later, he pays her more money, even though she refuses to work. She squanders the money he gave her, and now, 30 years later, guess what? He has to pay her all over again because she’s ‘fallen on hard times.’ Nice.”

Fortunately this ridiculous, punitive, anti-male court ruling has been reversed by a UK appeals court. Unfortunately, I don’t see any mention of the wife having to reimburse him for the legal fees he absorbed from her attempt to soak him with this alimony suit. In fact, the court has reversed the £202,000 award but still says they may award the woman something.

The reporter got one thing right when he called the ruling a “rare court victory for a husband.” One question–when a woman and a man clash in family court, is the man almost always in the wrong? Either he is, or the family courts are biased against men.

If it were any other kind of suit, the bias would be clear and acknowledged. For example, if a judge always ruled in favor of plaintiffs in product liability lawsuits against businesses, the bias would be recognized. If a labor arbitrator always ruled in favor of the bosses against the unions, the bias would be recognized. Nobody would shrug and say “the rulings are OK because one side (the businesses, or the unions, or whoever) is almost always wrong.”

One more thing about this case–this woman abandoned her family and the man raised the three kids himself. Yet now she goes after him for even more money–30 years later–without any mention of child support or consideration for the expenses he incurred raising the kids after she took off.

The article is below–thanks to Malcolm James for sending it to me.

Court rules ex-wife’s £200,000 ‘second bite at cherry’ is unfair
By Frances Gibb, Legal Editor
The Times (U.K.), 7/26/07

A multimillionaire succeeded yesterday in stopping the woman whom he divorced nearly 30 years ago from claiming a slice of his fortune after she fell on hard times.

Dennis North, 70, a retired builder from near Sheffield, had appealed against the decision made by a family judge last year to award £202,000 from his retirement fund to his ex-wife, Jean North, whom he divorced in 1978.

Mrs North, 64, had left him and their three children for another man and the couple had divorced with a financial settlement that gave Mrs North a “reasonable” lifestyle.

But after her finances took a turn for the worse she returned to court to seek a further award from her former husband in what Mr North called “a second bite of the cherry”.

Mr North, whose fortune is estimated at between £5 million and £11 million, argued that it was “simply unjust” that he should have to make another payment so long after the original settlement, particularly because his former wife’s financial state was a result of her own lifestyle choices.

In a rare court victory for a husband, the Court of Appeal agreed with Mr North, ruling that the second award was “fundamentally flawed”.

Lord Justice Thorpe, sitting with Lord Justice May and Mr Justice Bennett, ruled that Mrs North may still be due “some modest award” from her former husband, but it would not approach the six-figure sum that she had previously been granted.

The judge said that it was the court’s “overarching objective” to be fair to both sides. But he said of Mr North: “He is not an insurer against all hazards nor, when fairness is the measure, is he liable for needs created by the applicant’s financial mismanagement, extravagance or irresponsibility.

“The prodigal former wife cannot hope to turn to a former husband in pursuit of a legal remedy, whatever may be her hope that he might, out of charity, come to her rescue.” The appeal judges will decide before the end of this month after considering written arguments whether Mrs North is still entitled to anything at all from her husband.

The couple split up in 1977 and were divorced the following year, with the three children staying with their father. Mr North divorced his wife when he found that she was having an affair with a friend of his. In 1981 they hammered out what he believed to be a final agreement, under which he gave her a house in Sheffield, and paid her ground rents that he received on various properties that he owned in the area.

By the late 1990s Mrs North had accumulated investments worth £328,000. But her fortunes declined when she emigrated to Australia in 2002.

As a result of a series of “unfortunate” investments, based on alleged poor advice, her assets dwindled by more than £100,000 over the next two years.

In March last year Mrs North, who lives in Sydney, applied to the High Court in the UK to vary the terms of the 1981 divorce settlement to provide for her basic needs and, in April, a district judge awarded her £202,000.

District Judge Peter Greene awarded her the lump sum, despite finding that Mrs North’s problems were “entirely of her own making” and that Mr North had no further responsibility towards her.

Lord Justice Thorpe said yesterday that that approach had been “fundamentally flawed” and the appeal should be allowed. He said that any settlement must be fair to both parties and it did not follow that Mr North was responsible financially for any of Mrs North’s needs.

He added: “Even the applicant’s subjective sense of fairness should surely not encourage her to expect that someone from whom she was divorced so many years ago should be required in law to compensate her for the financial consequences of ill-advised choices.”

Mr Justice Bennett said he agreed that there had been an “illogical inconsistency” on the part of District Judge Greene.

“Having found that the husband played no part in, and should not be held responsible for, the depletion of the wife’s finances, the district judge nevertheless jumped to the impermissible conclusion that the wife was entitled to an order of periodical payments.”, Glenn Sacks

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