A businessman whose wife divorced him after an argument over her map-reading during a holiday in France has failed in a legal bid to overturn the decision after a family judge said he has similar rows with his own wife.
Mr Howell denied he had acted unreasonably and objected to being ordered to pay his wife’s £20,000 legal costs bills
Mark Howell, 60, and his former wife Nalini, 51, argued after getting lost in France on country roads during a wine tasting tour in Burgundy in August 2011.
Mrs Howell, a company director, was in charge of reading the map for her husband, a property investor, who was driving. But the couple had to pull over after losing their way and subsequently argued over her map-reading skills, London’s Civil Appeal Court heard.
The row lasted only “a matter of moments”, according to Mr Howell, but it formed the basis of his wife’s bid to divorce him.
Judge Michael Horowitz QC granted a decree nisi after he confessed that he and his own wife also “argue about map reading”.
On appeal, the businessman asked Lord Justice Thorpe to overturn that order and breathe life back into a 10-year marriage he insists is not dead.
Mr Howell, of Kennington, South London, argued Judge Horowitz was wrong to accept his wife’s account that the map-reading row was just one of many.
“There was nothing on which the judge could conclude that my wife could not be reasonably expected to live with me,” he said, also insisting: “I believe as I stand here that the marriage has not irretrievably broken down.
“She said that there had been lots of arguments between us, but she never mentioned any arguments to the judge when asked a direct question, apart from one about map reading on the way to a wine tasting in France.
“I conceded that the argument about map reading had happened and the judge said he and his wife argued about map reading”.
Mr Howell, who denied he had acted unreasonably, also objected to being ordered to pay his wife’s £20,000 legal costs bills.
Refusing Mr Howell permission to appeal, however, Lord Justice Thorpe said: “The conclusion of the judge was that the marriage had irretrievably broken down. He concluded that the wife had proved her case.
“The husband’s appeal against that is manifestly very difficult. The wife’s case was being put at a minimum to satisfy the legal test but to save the husband from assertions that might appear gratuitous or unkind.
“Mr Howell is a man of considerable intelligence and he has advanced his case with courtesy.
“It is sad, as it seems to me, that this couple have spent far more energy and wasted far more money than was ever necessary had there been a more realistic assessment of where they stood and how to bring their failed marriage to an end.”
Outside court afterwards, Mr Howell said: “We were staying in Burgundy for nine days in August 2011. I was driving and my wife was reading the map. We were driving through back roads, and I had to stop to find the way. It was only a matter of moments really.”
Mrs Howell, of Sullivan Road, Kennington, was not represented at the Appeal Court hearing and did not attend.
SOURCE: The Telegraph