It was Australia's longest, messiest and most expensive divorce.

The 14-year saga involved more than 700 documents, a "vast number" of hearings, 61 separate judgments, 16 law firms and more than A$40 million ($41.7m) in legal fees.

But the case, akin to Jarndyce and Jarndyce from Charles Dickens' Bleak House, was finally brought to an end last month with the Family Court refusing the wife's bid to have the proceedings reopened so she could attempt to retain her share in the family trusts and companies.

The wealthy couple, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, married in 1994 and separated in 2005, with litigation starting just months later. "They have been litigating about their marriage longer than they were married," the appeal judges noted in their decision.

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According to the Adelaide Advertiser, which has been following the case since 2010, previous judges had described it as "somewhat farcical" and a "cottage industry" for lawyers, with the woman deemed a vexatious litigant in related proceedings.

Over the course of the proceedings she burned through "approximately 16 different firms of solicitors, eight different senior counsel and 14 different junior counsel". "Each in turn, either ceased to act or alternatively, had their services terminated," Justice Paul Cronin noted in an earlier decision.

"Years had passed without any clear indication of what she was seeking, notwithstanding the parade of lawyers passing. Most of those lawyers were involved in interlocutory disputes about discovery and litigation funding."

The woman repeatedly missed court hearings and filed documents late, using up an "enormous amount of the court's time". She claimed she needed more time to gather a full picture of her husband's financial situation, alleging he had sent A$142m "offshore".

In 2016, Justice Stewart Austin said he was "satisfied the past 11 years of litigation have afforded the wife sufficient opportunity to discover all that she would want in respect of the husband's financial affairs".

Last year, Justice Cronin ordered the woman hand back her interests in three family companies and two trusts, and relinquish caveats over properties in Australia, Hong Kong Switzerland and Southern Europe.

In exchange, the husband was ordered to hand over more than $2 million in cash, five properties worth A$7.8m, company shares worth A$1m and other property valued at A$750,000.

The woman had already received A$12m in partial property settlements and A$1.5m in "spousal maintenance" over the "protracted" course of the litigation. The appeal judges rejected the woman's bid to maintain her spousal maintenance payments at A$16,392 per month.

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In 2010 she had applied for interim spousal maintenance of A$278,000 per month. That was knocked down to A$26,021 per month after the court agreed with the husband that the claim was "manifestly excessive and unjustified".

Justice Cronin last year determined she was now able to support herself, "even factoring in what she had previously described as a luxurious lifestyle", which included A$350 per week for "entertainment/hobbies", A$1560 per week for "clothing and shoes", A$615 per week for "gifts, hairdressing, toiletries and cosmetics" and A$1573 per week for "other necessary commitments".

"Even allowing for income which would now be taxed (as it has not been by virtue of the fact that the payment she has received has been spousal maintenance), my view is that the wife should be able to live comfortably by community standards factoring in the significant amount of money and property that she will have from this case," he said.

He also rejected the woman's assertion that the husband may stop providing financial support for their disabled adult son, who she cares for with the assistance of "a number of people all of whom are paid largely by the husband".

Her appeal of the 2018 decision — for which she was not present in court — argued that Justice Cronin "should not have made a final order" in her absence, or alternatively if a final order were made, that it was "not enough".

"It could hardly be doubted that the history of this outrageously protracted litigation, its impost upon ever-scarcer public resources, importantly, the impact upon other litigants seeking to avail those resources, and the concomitant need to bring to an end the financial relationships between parties who had divorced over 11 years previously were all highly relevant considerations in the exercise of his Honour's discretion," the appeal judges said.

"We consider that circumstances here justify an order for costs in all three appeals. The wife has been wholly unsuccessful. We will order that the wife pay the husband's costs of and incidental to all three appeals."