Published: 12th February 2018
A UK judge has described a divorce battle between a rich couple as a ‘waste of court time’, with the couple having spent almost a third of their wealth on lawyer fees already. The couple have assets worth more than £6.5m, of which £2m has now been spent throughout the divorce process, with a further £200,000 expected to be spent should the case go to court.
The Couple’s Divorce
The couple, Barbara Cooke, 58, and Michael Parker, 55, own a company that provides upmarket hotels and spas with luxurious towels and bathrobes. The businesses was initially set up by Mrs Cooke in 2001, with Mr Parker becoming a director of the company, of which employs 17 people and is located in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
Mr Justice Holman suggested that court time was being wasted, and also said that the couple has ‘completely lost touch with reality’. The proceedings for this particular divorce case have not yet been brought to trial, and the judge did warn the couple that they may face a ‘catastrophe’, encouraging them to enter into negotiations with each other.
Holman was considering the latest stage of the dispute at a pre-trial hearing, and he said: “They have spent a third of their wealth slugging it out. These people have completely lost touch with reality. I don’t know where the responsibility lies; it’s probably shared. This is heading for catastrophe. This whole case is a scandalous waste of court time. Sometimes one can see cases where people are just absolutely determined to go on and on and on. I don’t know on which side the fault lies but this seems to be that sort of case.”
In May 2017, Mr Justice Holman made a similar point during a case in the same vein as this one, saying: “If there is nothing left at the end, there is nothing left at the end. It won’t be Maseratis, will it? It will be a beaten-up old Ford if you’re lucky.”
Going to Extreme Lengths
During the couple’s relationship, it was alleged that Mr Parker looked towards insurance fraud, arranging for a £1m bungalow, belonging to Mrs Cooke, to be burned down. Whilst living elsewhere, the couple made a claim to their insurance company regarding the Berkshire property, as was heard in a high court hearing back in 2012. At this point, Mr Justice Teare rejected the insurance claim and found that Mr Parker had arranged the fire behind his wife’s back. A key was found on the outside of a conservatory door, leading to suspicions that the arranged arsonist had prior access to the property.
Mr Justice Teare said: “I have reached the conclusion that there is no credible explanation for the fire on the evidence before the court other than it was set by persons on the direction of Mr Parker.” There was no criminal prosecution as a result of this.
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