Hildebrand v Hildebrand: 1992

The parties in ancillary relief proceedings sought orders for discovery. H had been to the wife’s flat surreptitiously on five occasions, and taken photocopies of so many documents obtained by him in the course of those visits (but returned after photocopying) that the photocopies themselves would now ‘fill a crate’, as the judge was told.
Held: Waite J summarised the legal background and procedures for discovery in the Family Division, referring to the Rules of the Supreme Court which governed civil proceedings in the High Court. He stated that they differ a little from that in other Divisions, in that the principal applicable rules were the 1977 Rules and that it had become standard practice to proceed to discovery by means of questionnaires. These partook of the character both of the request of discovery and of an interrogatory. In appropriate circumstances the court was exercising an inquisitorial jurisdiction: ‘underlying the whole basis of the exercise of the Court’s discretion under the amended section 25 of the 1973 Act is the duty of both sides to provide the court with information about all the circumstances of the case, including amongst other things, the particular matters specified in section 25.’
The first issue was: ‘what must the husband now disclose of the box file copies and the Wallace Court copies?’ and the Judge held that the husband must disclose all of the documents in both categories.
Waite J held: ‘There is another important feature in the context of discovery which it is relevant to mention as applying in family cases. The jurisdiction is a paternal one, and, where financial proceedings are involved, the court is exercising not merely a paternal but also, in appropriate circumstances, an inquisitorial jurisdiction. Underlying the whole basis of the exercise of the court’s discretion under the amended s. 25 of the 1973 Act is the duty of both sides to provide the court with information about all the circumstances of the case, including, among other things, the particular matters specified in s. 25. That was very clearly stated by the House of Lords in Livsey (formerly Jenkins) v Jenkins [1985] AC 424 . . (see the speech of Lord Brandon at p. 436).’


Waite J


[1992] 1 FLR 244


Matrimonial Causes Rules 1977 77(4)


England and Wales


CitedJenkins v Livesey (formerly Jenkins) HL 1985
The parties had negotiated through solicitors a compromise of ancillary relief claims on their divorce. They agreed that the house should be transferred to the wife in consideration of her release of all other financial claims. The wife however . .

Cited by:

CitedL v L and Hughes Fowler Carruthers QBD 1-Feb-2007
The parties were engaged in ancillary relief proceedings. The Husband complained that the wife had sought to use unlawfully obtained information, and in these proceedings sought delivery up of the material from the wife and her solicitors. He said . .
AppliedWhite v Withers Llp and Another QBD 19-Nov-2008
The claimant sought damages. The defendant firm of solicitors had represented the claimant’s wife in matrimonial procedings, and had used in evidence documents which the claimant said had been taken from him and were confidential.
Held: The . .
CitedWhite v Withers Llp and Dearle CA 27-Oct-2009
The claimant was involved in matrimonial ancillary relief proceedings. His wife was advised by the defendants, her solicitors, to remove his private papers. The claimant now sought permission to appeal against a strike out of his claim against the . .
HildebrandTchenguiz and Others v Imerman CA 29-Jul-2010
Anticipating a refusal by H to disclose assets in ancillary relief proceedings, W’s brothers wrongfully accessed H’s computers to gather information. The court was asked whether the rule in Hildebrand remained correct. W appealed against an order . .
CitedT v T (Interception of Documents) FD 5-Aug-1994
W feared that the H would seek to understate the true extent of his resources to the court and so she engaged in a number of activities, including opening and taking letters addressed to him and breaking into his office, with the intention of . .
CitedJ v V (Disclosure: Offshore Corporations) FD 2003
A prenuptial agreement had been signed on the eve of marriage without advice or disclosure and without allowance for arrival of children. Coleridge J also considered the use of documents recovered by a party by unauthorised or improper means. He . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Family, Litigation Practice

Updated: 15 May 2022; Ref: scu.270364