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Family runs up £1M legal bill in row over ownership of £245k cottage
Judge left in despair at ‘tragedy’ of family running up £1million legal bill in court battle over ownership of £245,000 cottage
- The battle began when Pamela Teasdale told husband Daniel she wanted to leave
- It sparked a row over who could stay in Cow House on their South Yorkshire farm
Three members of a family have run up a £1million legal bill fighting a court battle over the ownership of a cottage worth £245,000.
A senior judge said it was a ‘tragedy’ the argument was not amicably settled.
He added the ensuing four-year legal battle that ‘fractured’ the farming family was ‘one of the most regrettable pieces of litigation that I have ever come across’.
It began when mother-of-two Pamela Teasdale, 68, demanded a divorce from her husband Daniel, 73, after 44 years of marriage.
She wanted to continue living at Burne Farm, Todwick, South Yorkshire, and start a livery business there. But Mr Teasdale, whose family had run the farm for three generations, wanted her to leave with a lump sum payoff.
The row began after Pamela Teasdale (left) told her husband of 44 years Daniel (right) that she wanted a divorce
The family has now spent more than £1million in legal fees over who owns Cow House (pictured) on their South Yorkshire Farm
What should have been a minor complication in sorting out their affairs was dealing with the ownership of Cow House. The renovated farm building was home to their daughter Rebecca, 45, her husband Andrew Carter, 45, and their daughter.
Both parents, who have another daughter Penelope, were happy for Mrs Carter and her family to stay at the cottage, which had been transformed from a dilapidated barn at a cost of £200,000.
As the judge was to comment later, the fact that Mr Teasdale had £2.3million in the bank from the sale of some of land to developers meant finding an agreement between them should have been ‘relatively straightforward’.
Instead a row over the ownership terms of the cottage blew up into a bitter family dispute in which Mrs Teasdale even accused Mrs Carter of planting a listening device in her lounge to snoop on her.
A nine-day High Court hearing followed by a two-day appeal hearing, with all three family members represented by expensive legal teams, led to a total legal bill of £1,048,000.
Mrs Teasdale ended up losing the court battle, with her daughter awarded ownership of Cow House once the remaining £85,000 mortgage was paid off.
Mrs Carter said she had been paying the mortgage for years but her mother said it was rent.
Judge Gordon Shelton, backed by the appeal judge Mr Justice Moor, ruled the parents had both promised the cottage to their daughter and rejected Mrs Teasdale’s denial this was the case.
However, the judge refused Mrs Carter’s bid to stop any future livery business being run nearby by her mother because it would disturb their peace.
A High Court judge has ruled that the couple’s daughter Rebecca Carter (pictured), who lives in the property with her husband and daughter, is the owner of the property
The daughter had already been gifted a manege – a horse training area – for her 21st birthday and horses were said to be ‘the centre of her life’.
Both parents and their daughter had run up six-figure legal bills even before the case went to appeal, which then added another £220,000 to the costs.
The judge ordered that Mrs Teasdale must pay half the legal bill of her husband and daughter, leaving her with fees in excess of £560,000 with more to come.
Just who is to live where and how the staggering legal bills will be paid is yet to be decided. A decree nisi has been granted but the Teasdales’ divorce has not yet been finalised.
Currently they remain living under the same roof, with Mrs Carter, a parish councillor, a stone’s throw away.
The family’s remaining farmland is valued at £2.5million but the messy divorce and huge legal costs have put the future of the farm at risk, shattering their rural harmony forever.
Mr Teasdale said: ‘My wife asked me for a divorce and I didn’t even know anything about it. There is nobody else involved. It has been such a stressful time, this has been going on for nearly five years.
‘It’s caused so much upset because they were all close, my wife and daughters would spend weekends together with Rebecca having an interest in horses and Penelope with labradors.
‘Now it’s all gone. I don’t know if I will get to keep the farm. We are all in limbo.’
Mrs Teasdale said: ‘This is a family matter and I can’t say anything until the conclusion.’
Mrs Carter said she did not want to comment but the case had left her feeling upset ‘because this is my mum’.
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