Estranged couple who run towel business face divorce battle delay

An estranged couple behind a firm which supplies towels and bathrobes to top hotels have been told that they must wait another eight months before their battle over money can be fully aired before a divorce court judge.

A judge says Barbara Cooke and Michael Parker, directors of BC Softwear, which is based in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and employs 17 people, will not be able to mount opposing arguments at a hearing until October.

Mr Justice Holman, who has overseen preliminary hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in London, says he regrets that the wait will prolong the strife for Ms Cooke and Mr Parker, who are both in their 50s, and prolong a difficult situation for their employees.

But he says the Family Division of the High Court has to work to a calendar and he says the dispute is jostling for space with "more needy" cases.

Michael Parker and his estranged partner Barbara Cooke are said to be unable to agree on anything (Nick Ansell/PA)
Michael Parker and his estranged partner Barbara Cooke are said to be unable to agree on anything (Nick Ansell/PA)

The judge has outlined the state of play in a ruling published following the latest preliminary hearing.

He said a date had been fixed for early this year and listed to last seven days.

But the judge said he had concluded that seven days would not be enough and said a two-week hearing had been re-fixed to start on October 15.

"Sometimes a case seems to expand like Topsy, and an estimate, which was given in good faith at an earlier stage, begins clearly to be inadequate," said Mr Justice Holman.

"These parties seem to be locked into a titanic dispute in which, to date, no quarter seems to be given by either of them."

The judge said Ms Cooke and Mr Parker "seem unable to agree on practically anything"

"All these factors, cumulatively, lead me very firmly to feel that I, at least, could not resolve this case in the seven days," he said.

"I appreciate that it prolongs the strife, and prolongs what may be a very difficult situation, not only for the parties but for the employees of the company.

"The fact is that the courts do have to work to a calendar.

"This case is jostling for space with many other even more needy cases concerning abducted children, children kept from their parents."

The judge added: "I cannot, in all conscience, remove other cases from the list in order to enlarge the available time.

"The first available date when a judge can give two clear weeks for this case is 15th October 2018, and that is when it will be re-fixed."

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