A High Court judge is considering making an order deferring for several years the sale of the home of a woman and her two young children.
The sale order was obtained by the woman’s estranged and previously abusive husband from the Circuit Court, so he could buy a house for himself, his new partner and their baby.
A stay on sale was applied until 2025, but the High Court’s Mr Justice Max Barrett said on Monday he will hear arguments later whether it should be deferred further until the youngest child finishes secondary school.
The man had said the woman could, after the mortgage was paid off, keep 80 per cent of the sale proceeds to a maximum €100,000 and maybe buy a new home or rent a property.
Mr Justice Barrett said the woman is a low-paid professional who does not earn enough to get a home loan in the area where the children attend creche and school, and she may have to rent.
He was “unsympathetic” to seeing an abused wife and her children, one now receiving therapy, “cast into the uncertainties of rental accommodation so that a previously abusive husband can ensconce himself in a new home of his own”.
During the couple’s marriage, the woman alleged she was verbally and physically assaulted by the man, including kicking her in a stitched wound after the delivery of one of their children, and spitting in her face, he noted.
The man alleged she had exaggerated, but the “undeniable” history included she got a barring order and eventually fled the family home, moving 10 times in nine months with the children and spending some time in a women’s refuge.
“What woman would put herself and two young children through such misery if she was not genuinely living in fear of her husband?”
The case came to the High Court via appeals by the man and woman against Circuit Court orders in judicial separation proceedings but developed, at the request of both, as divorce proceedings.
On Monday, the judge said he was prepared to grant a decree of divorce and various other orders.
Breach of maintenance orders
Questioning whether it was appropriate the children should move now from their home, he will hear the sides later whether the sale order should be stayed until the youngest finishes secondary school. He considered the woman should get 80 per cent of the eventual sale proceeds.
Pending the sale, he proposed to order that the man pay 80 per cent of mortgage payments, mortgage protection and house insurance from September 2019.
He found the man has breached maintenance orders and ordered him to pay all outstanding maintenance by December 3rd or face contempt proceedings. The judge also said he intends to increase the maintenance sums payable.
Final orders on those and other issues will be made later.
‘Desperately hard time’
The judge said the woman is a “good mother” who appeared to have had “a desperately hard time”. The children also suffered but were settling back into their home and the woman did not want them moved again.
What made the man’s past actions “particularly shocking” is that he is “well-presented and articulate”, with a well-paid job and no apparent addiction problems that might explain, though not excuse, his past behaviour towards his wife, he said.
The man had said her claims were inflammatory and exaggerated and alleged some of her own behaviours had been “challenging”.
There is “no excuse, none whatsoever, ever, for domestic violence or the threat of domestic violence between intimate partners”, the judge said.
The man had sought to disparage the woman by reference to her mental health but her GP had said, while she suffered in the past with depression, she has been well for the past decade.
The man had, in the past, “for reasons that are, to put matters at their most charitable, unclear”, obtained a safety and protection order against the woman, he noted.
The man had the “welcome decency” to apologise twice, in a letter and a text message, to the woman for his actions towards her during their relatively short-lived marriage. His text message saying “I’m f***ed up and I’m sorry for making your life hell” was, in some ways, “as perturbing as it is reassuring”, pointing to a man who considers he is not fully well and ought to seek professional assistance.