$700,000 awarded to former wife in order to continue the fight for NZ’s largest net-worth family law case

[et_pb_section fb_built="1" _builder_version="3.22"][et_pb_row _builder_version="3.25" background_size="initial" background_position="top_left" background_repeat="repeat"][et_pb_column type="4_4" _builder_version="3.25" custom_padding="|||" custom_padding__hover="|||"][et_pb_text _builder_version="3.27.4" background_size="initial" background_position="top_left" background_repeat="repeat"]In the prominent case of Biggs v Biggs [2020] NZCA 231, New Zealand millionaire, Stephen Biggs, has been ordered to pay his former wife $700,000 (NZ) in an interim payment which will allow her to pursue her claim in their property settlement matter. The couple who married in 2011 and entered into lengthy divorce proceedings in 2016, have a property pool estimated to be worth around $59million, which will be New Zealand’s largest ever property settlement once the matter is finalised. The wife’s initial payment claim was for a $1.1 million, which would have covered her legal and accountant fees in the matter so far and allow her team to prepare for trial. The issue is that the couple’s main jointly owned residence has not yet sold (Closeburn Farm valued around $8.6million), so the amount would be funded entirely by Mr Bigg’s own assets. In court, she claimed that Mr Biggs could easily afford to pay her this amount. The court agreed that Mr Biggs could afford to pay an amount without being caused any hardship, though what fair and reasonable amount to be paid was the “million-dollar” question. The court took into account factors including the current economic climate, namely the effect that the Covid-19 pandemic is having on the property market, and that this would have a significant effect on the value of the former couple’s “shared” assets. Another consideration mentioned was the merits of the Ms Bigg’s claim to the multimillion-dollar property pool (which will be ultimately determined at the trial). As Mr Biggs would be footing the bill for the time being, the court wanted to ensure there would be a high likely hood that this payment could be repaid to him in time, when the asset pool is ultimately divided. Another factor that was taken into account was whether it was fair and reasonable for Ms Bigg’s legal and accounting team to carry such high costs throughout the lengthy trial. Her accounting team has a caveat over the jointly owned property and have been charging interest on her fees, whereas her legal team (including Australian legal counsel) carried the fees without security for payment and were not charging interest in order to assist Ms Biggs, trusting that they would be paid at the end of the matter. The court decided it would be fair and reasonable for her legal team to be paid in the interim, as they had not charged interest to her and did not have the same security as the accountants securing payment of their fees when all is said and done. In deciding the amount of $700,000, the court took a conservative approach to the amount to be paid by Mr Biggs. In the event the wife’s claim is untimely realised at trial, this interim payment is to be repaid by her share of the property pool at settlement. In any event, the amount awarded means Ms Biggs is able to continue the lengthy battle.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

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