Husband and wife petitioned for divorce in 2008. In January 2009, a statutory demand was served on the husband and a bankruptcy petition was presented in March 2009. In June 2009, husband and wife agreed a consent order whereby the husband was to make periodical payments to the wife and daughter and to repay around £1.4m to the wife.
On 7 July 2009, a bankruptcy order was made against the husband and on 16 July a District Judge approved the consent order without knowledge of the bankruptcy order. In November 2014 the husband unfortunately committed suicide.
The Registrar’s Decision
The trustee applied for a declaration that the consent order was void; matrimonial relief against the wife; and an order that payments totalling £40K to the wife were transactions at an undervalue (TUV). The Registrar held that the Consent Order was void, but refused to award the matrimonial relief or grant the TUV order and ordered the trustee to pay 75% of the wife’s costs.
The trustee applied for permission to appeal. A High Court Judge granted permission to appeal on the TUV point and costs, but not the matrimonial relief decision. The trustee applied for permission to appeal the matrimonial relief point at a hearing and the wife cross-applied to dismiss the permissions given.
The Judge held that the matrimonial relief could only be granted to the husband whilst he was alive and the trustee could be in no better position than the husband. The Judge rejected the trustee’s argument that the claim vested in the trustee, irrespective of the husband’s death and therefore refused permission to appeal. The Judge also dismissed the wife’s cross-applications.