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Wealthy couple married for five months ‘spent 18 months fighting over money’

Mr Justice Peel, who oversaw the fight in a family court, has told how the pair “litigated bitterly” and ran up lawyers’ bills of more than £1 million

26 May 2022

A wealthy couple married for around five months ran up lawyers’ bills of more than £1 million during an 18-month fight over money, a judge said.

Mr Justice Peel oversaw the pair’s fight at a recent private family court hearing in London and has outlined detail in a judgment published online.

The judge said they had “litigated bitterly” and told how one row was over the ownership of a Steinway piano.

He has not named the man and woman, who married and separated in 2020 and lived in London, in his ruling.

But he said they were both in their 50s and said their standard of living had been “close” to “luxurious”.

He said the man, an American who worked in the software industry, and the woman, a musician, met in 2018.

“(They) were married for no more than about five months and have no children,” said Mr Justice Peel in his ruling.

“Such cases should be easy to resolve.

“Not so here; the parties have litigated bitterly, at enormous cost and in minute forensic detail for over a year and a half.”

He said both had run up legal costs of more than £600,000.

Mr Justice Peel, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, ordered the man to pay the woman £750,000.

He said the woman had “pre-owned, non-marital property” and would leave the marriage “debt free” and with total assets of more than £1 million.

The man had offered £400,000, though the woman had wanted a package worth several million pounds.

Mr Justice Peel said the woman had argued that the man had given her his Steinway piano as a present. The man disagreed.

The judge ruled that the man should keep the piano.

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