Reports have emerged this week of a decision made back in July to “ban” a former wife from making a wide range of applications to the court against her ex-husband. The order is known as a civil restraint order in which a judge can stop limit someone’s ability to take a person to court by requiring them to apply to court for permission before starting a fresh case. Mr and Mrs Welch were not married terribly long before their separation in 2013. During their relationship Mrs Welch was actively involved in litigation against her previous husband.
The case was concluded but Mrs Welch was not satisfied with the outcome so appealed unsuccessfully to the High Court. This appeal was rejected as were various other applications. In granting a civil restraint order, which will prevent Mrs Welch from suing her husband without getting the permission of the judge who handled the financial settlement, Mr Justice Holman expressed concern at the amount of money that had been spent and described Mrs Welch’s approach as “obsessive and irrational”. He also noted the increasing problem of the courts dealing with people representing themselves due to the unavailability of legal aid in most family cases. He felt that the lack of objective advice had maybe played a part in her decision to pursue her husband as relentlessly as she did.
The court does not have the power to stop Mrs Welch from applying to change the maintenance order the court made in her favour. Maintenance orders are always variable but no doubt any such application, if made without good reason, could land Mrs Welch with a substantial costs bill. Civil restraint orders are very rare in family proceedings but it is possible that this judgment might remind lawyers of their existence.
Whatever happens, continuing litigation on this scale is unusual and so the making of an unusual order is perhaps in keeping with the extreme lengths to which Mrs Welch went.