A judge has told a former beauty queen that divorce battles are “like a boxing match” as he urged her to reach an out-of-court settlement with her estranged husband.
On the eve of a ten-day hearing, which is likely to cost £250,000 in legal costs on top of £1 million the couple have already spent, Mr Justice Holman told Ekaterina and Richard Fields their fight over £6m in assets was “unedifying”.
He said: “”It’s awful. Don’t you think it’s awful? It’s like a boxing match. You and Mr Fields were married to each other for 10 years roughly. You have got two children. It really doesn’t have to be like this. It should never have got this far.
“Think about what each of you could have done with a million pounds. Just think.”
He asked Mrs Fields whether she had ever experienced litigation before, and she said she had not.
He added: “You should not be going on like this. Frankly, it is very, very unedifying.”
He urged them to avoid the “painful destructive experience” of having to give evidence against each other in open court, and said it filled him with “gloom” to see them fighting when they should be sitting around a table negotiating a fair settlement.
Five times married businessman Mr Fields, 59, became the second husband of 42-year-old Ekaterina Parfenova, a Russian-born model, actress and philanthropist, in 2002. She is a former Miss World University.
They have two young children and although a decree nisi was granted in March 2013 it has never been made absolute while they battled over money.
Mr Justice Holman is today due to start hearing evidence in the dispute in the Family Division of the High Court in London.
Mrs Fields was originally looking for a home in London for around £500,000, but in the two years that have elapsed since divorce proceedings started property prices have soared.
She also wants maintenance payments from his £1.3m annual income, which comes from his company funding litigation in America.
She also felt she was “cheated” when he closed down a company in which she owned 22.5 per cent of the shares to set up a new company where he owned all the shares, leaving her with shares in a worthless shell company.
Mr Fields is chairman and chief executive of Juridica Asset Management Ltd, which is described on its company website as “one of the most successful litigation funding firms in the world”. It boasts that it has clawed back more than $3 billion for its clients over the years.
He was previously a partner at a law firm in Washington DC.
Mr Fields had asked for the hearing to be held behind closed doors, but Mr Justice Holman refused.
He said: “There is a very long tradition in this country of open justice.
We sit in the name of the sovereign but on behalf of the public. How can people have any confidence in the way the system is being operated if they are excluded?
“The press have to be in here unless it is necessary to exclude them.
“Barristers have got to understand that so far as this judge is concerned and this court is concerned there is a very, very high public interest … in openness.
“The public are entitled not just to hear the sanitised judgment that a judge gives, they are entitled to hear the evidence and argument upon which he has based that judgment.
They are entitled to see the judge at work.”
The hearing continues.