One area that often causes confusion for individuals involved in court cases where one party is unable to speak English is who pays for the translation of legal documents and evidence.
One recent case involving a Polish couple whose children were taken from them under an emergency protection order demonstrated that the translation of documents is paid for by the party who requires them to be translated.
One caveat to this was that the party or parties must only pay for documents to be translated if they have legal aid.
In this one particular case the couples grasp of the English language was said to be poor and this would have put them at a disadvantage in the courtroom had they not been able to have documents translated for them.
Initially the local council funded initial translations but funding for additional translations was brought into question. It was suggested that only those documents important for the case would should be translated.
Altogether the county council asked the court to look at four funding options:
Party funds their own translation
The local authority covers the cost
Translation costs are shared between the parties concerned
The parties translate their own documents individually
The judge in the case and the local authority agreed that option one was the right option in this particular case.
In the recently reported case of AAZ v BBZ  EWHC, the wife is 44 and the husband is 61. The couple married and moved to London in 1993 when the wife was pregnant with the elder son. In 1996 the second son was born. Throughout the couple’s 20 year marriage the wife had been a ‘hands on’ mother and housewife. The husband is an oil and gas trader who sold shares in a Russian company for $1.375 billion dollars. The husband was unrepresented in court and failed to attend hearings in breach of multiple orders.
The wife contended that the total net martial wealth in the case was £1.092 billion and that the entire wealth was matrimonial in nature. In giving judgment, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave agreed that the parties’ wealth had been built up over the course of the marriage through ‘equal contributions to the welfare of the family, and should be subject to the sharing principle’. A split approaching 50:50 was therefore appropriate.
The wife had originally sought £350million, however as the parties had not agreed a settlement she claimed a further £93million, comprising chattels at their English home valued at £2.5million, an Aston Martin car valued at £350,000 and the parties’ modern art collection valued at $112million dollars. The wife’s claim was 41.5% of the total marital assets and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave found that the figure of £453,576,152 was justified considering all the circumstances of the case.
Since the judgment in AAZ v BBZ, the husband has commented that the High Court ruling is unreasonable and unfounded and has described his wife’s actions as an outrageous abuse of the British legal system. The husband claims that the couple divorced in Russia more than 17 years ago due to the wife’s adultery. In light of these comments, the husband may seek to appeal the High Court judgment.
In 2014, Jamie Cooper-Hohn, wife of financier Sir Chris Hohn was awarded £337million and this was thought to be one of the biggest financial settlements in the UK. The settlement figure of £453,576,152 in AAZ v BBZ may not even be the ‘largest ever’ divorce award in the UK given that an increasing number of high-net-worth couples are electing for private divorce and arbitration whereby the details of the final settlement are kept entirely confidential.
The recent cases of AAZ v BBZ and Cooper-Hohn do however reinforce the view that the English Courts, and in particular London, tend to show an unparalleled generosity towards the financially weaker spouse. This generosity is based on the principle that ‘breadwinners’ and ‘homemakers’ contributions to a marriage are of equal importance.
While most of us will have enough self-control not to pry into anyone’s mail let alone our ex partner’s, there can be serious consequences if that partner decides they want to pursue their ex wife or husband for taking a peek.
According to statistics, one in five husbands and wives admit to using all sorts of spying techniques in efforts to gain evidence that will help them in court battles. Aside from opening post meant for partners, activities include logging into computers and mobile phones.
Unfortunately, while gaining evidence could be seen as a victory, it may turn out to be a hollow one with a potential jail sentence imposed if the source of the evidence comes into question and it is found to have been gained unlawfully.
The worst cases can end up with an individual being given a two-year jail term under the Investigatory Powers Act or a payoff that is well below that which would otherwise have been gained.
This comes as a surprise to many people who think that because they were previously married to a person, they retain the right to open their mail and so on.