A multi-millionaire French vineyard boss has been ordered to pay £140,000 to his estranged wife so she can pay her lawyers – but doesn’t have to pay her utility bills.
Anne Orenga de Gafforj, 50, has received no maintenance from her husband Henri since April and is struggling to ‘feed and clothe’ their kids, a court has heard.
Although he has now been ordered to pay £140,000, the Court of Appeal ruling does not bring Mrs Gafforj any closer to receiving the maintenance she needs to survive.
Now living with their children in Settle, North Yorkshire, she is struggling even to pay her gas and electricity bills, her lawyers have argued.
Meanwhile, her 70-year-old husband, who runs an exclusive winery in Corsica, is determined their divorce should go ahead in France and is battling to stop his wife divorcing him in England.
Henri Orenga de Gafforj (pictured right) has been ordered to pay £140,000 to his estranged wife Anne (left) so she can pay her lawyers – but doesn’t have to pay her utility bills
Although she’s been living in Yorkshire since 2014, he says she is not ‘habitually resident’ in the UK and must divorce him in France.
But the businessman has now been accused by his wife’s lawyers of ‘expressing his contempt for English court proceedings.’
Mrs Gafforj once shared a Corsican mansion with her husband, in the midst of a successful 100-hectare family wine estate.
But, without maintenance, she has seen her ‘high standard of living’ evaporate and is languishing in Yorkshire ‘without funds’, the court was told.
Lord Peter Jackson ordered Mr Gafforj to pay his wife £140,000, so that she can pay her lawyers, or be barred from pursuing his fight for a French divorce.
His stonewalling and failure to obey English court orders was causing ‘an impediment to justice,’ the judge ruled.
Expressing sympathy for Mrs Gafforj, he accepted that she was ‘dependent upon the maintenance for her living expenses.’
But he refused to order her husband to cough up the £16,000 maintenance he owes her as a condition of pressing ahead with his appeal.
Before the split, Mrs Gafforj helped to run the winery, which sits on a UNESCO World Heritage site in northern Corsica.
Anne Orenga de Gafforj had helped to run the couple’s 247-acre winery (pictured), which sits on a UNESCO World Heritage site in northern Corsica, but her ex-husband ‘remains in control’
But her barrister, Peter Newman, said her husband ‘remains in control’ of the business and the family fortune.
Mrs Gafforj launched a divorce petition in England in 2016, six weeks before her husband did the same in France.
And a divorce judge ruled last year that, as she was by then ‘resident’ in England, the case should go ahead in this country.
But, ‘deeply unhappy’ with the outcome, Mr Gafforj has since ‘completely ignored’ English court orders, Mr Newman said.
He said of Mrs Gafforj: ‘She has very limited income and earning capacity, whereas he remains in control of the income-generating family asset, the vineyard, and the matrimonial wealth generally.
‘The non-payment of maintenance affects her ability to live and her ability to feed and clothe the two children of the marriage. She is hamstrung.
‘It affects all the costs of life. She is unable to pay for gas and electricity in her home. She needs to be able to live her life and pay her rent.’
Lord Justice Jackson ruled that Mr Gafforj must pay the £140,000 before October 8, or his appeal will be automatically dismissed.
However, the judge stopped short of ordering him to pay his wife’s maintenance arrears before being allowed to fight his case.
He told the court: ‘I wouldn’t want it thought that we are unaware of the difficulties when maintenance is not paid.
‘I am far from dismissing the wife’s concerns about the effect upon her everyday life of the abrupt and arbitrary removal of her income stream.’
But it was Mr Gafforj’s failure to pay his wife’s legal bills, rather than her maintenance, that was the ‘strikingly direct impediment to the course of justice’.
Unable to pay for solicitors and barristers, there was a risk that she would be deprived of a fair hearing.
But, despite her financial hardship, her husband’s failure to pay her maintenance was ‘not an insuperable impediment’ to his appeal going ahead.
If Mr Gafforj fails to pay the £140,000 by the October 8 deadline, his appeal will be dismissed outright – opening the way for his wife to divorce him in England.