Outcome: Appeal dismissed.
1 The Husband appealed against the ancillary orders made by the lower court concerning the division of the matrimonial assets, spousal and child maintenance, and the care and control of and access to the children of the marriage. The lower court had held that the Wife could ‘depart’ from her pleadings in the Statement of Claim (“SOC”) regarding the division of matrimonial assets. On appeal, the Husband argued that the lower court was not entitled to ignore the rules regarding the wife’s pleadings setting out her claims for reliefs.
2 The Family Division of the High Court held that it was unnecessary for the lower court to have held that the Wife could ‘depart’ from the pleadings in her SOC as the Wife did not need to depart from her pleadings. Her prayer for fair division of matrimonial assets did not preclude the court from considering whether assets in sole names fell within the matrimonial pool: at .
3 The “wide powers of division” conferred by s 112 of the Women’s Charter 1961 should not be invoked to let parties depart from their pleadings. Rule 401(1) of the Family Justice Rules 2014 (“FJR”) stipulates that the SOC must state specifically the relief or remedy the plaintiff claims. Whatever parties plead in their SOC is binding on them. Parties may subsequently amend their pleadings, once without leave, before pleadings are deemed to be closed (r 420(1) FJR), or at any stage of the proceedings with the court’s leave, on such terms as may be just (r 422(1) FJR). If parties do not plead their cases clearly and correctly, they cannot rely on s 112 to assist them: at .
4 Fairness and discipline require parties to state clearly what cause it is that they wish to pursue before the court, and the opposing party to state what his defence is. It does not require the parties to set out evidence nor the law. But they must state the facts upon which the cause they choose can be founded. They must state out what reliefs they hope the court would grant. If this simple procedure is not done, the only remedy, so long as there is still time, is to pray for the court to allow an amendment to rectify the error or omission. Otherwise, the party must stand or fall by the claim they plead: at .
The full text of the decision can be found here.
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