The parties in this matter were both French. They had one child, now aged 3 who live with the mother in Paris. The father lived in London, and did not have any contact or real relationship with the child.
In proceedings in France, the father was ordered to pay maintenance for the child of £10,000 pa. Unfortunately he allowed arrears to accumulate. The mother therefore brought enforcement proceedings against him here in England, and in May 2014, the father was ordered to pay arrears of some £12,000 by instalments.
The mother contended that interest was due on the arrears and that, as a result of that the father still owed £3,000 to £4,000.
The father said that he has suffered a very considerable drop in his income and could no longer afford to pay maintenance at the rate ordered. The thrust of his case was that he did not have enough net income to go round. Accordingly, he issued an application for a variation downwards of this underlying French maintenance order.
The matter came before the High Court for a 30 minute direction appointment, it was therefore only an interim hearing.
In his judgement, the Judge Mr. Justice Holman, expressed his great concern that the dispute between the mother and father was for £4,000 a year, and yet the mother had already spent £30,000. He went on to say that there was a total loss of costs proportionality in the case; and the idea of the mother coming over from Paris, again and again, and being locked in litigation with the father about these objectively small sums, was almost mind-boggling. He urged and encouraged the parties in the strongest possible terms to cease the bitter and costs disproportionate conflict, and to resolve their differences by negotiation and agreement, including compromise.
He said they needed to remember that once upon a time their relationship was such that they conceived this child. He is at the centre of the conflict. Whatever their differences, he clearly needs to be provided for in a way that is fair and just to both parties, but also meets or contributes to his needs.
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