A former Queenstown woman battling to get her share of an estimated $59m from her husband has been awarded $700,000 to continue fighting the divorce case.
The Court of Appeal has ruled Stephen Timothy Biggs must pay his wife Sophie Annabelle Biggs $700,000 without delay in one of the largest divorce cases in New Zealand.
Before the couple begin their divorce case in the High Court at a trial set down for three weeks from June 22, the mother of three young children with no independent income sought funds from her husband to fight her corner.
Her lawyer, Lady Deborah Chambers QC, said Stephen Biggs' advisers were being paid but Sophie Biggs was being asked to soldier on and they should be put on an equal footing.
Timothy Biggs' counsel argued he had already paid or financed $760,000, including the interim distributions totalling $400,000, and his wife's costs were double his own.
The court judgment said Stephen Biggs should make an interim payment to substantially fund his wife's legal and expert witness costs, saying the $700,000 was on top of two previous payments of $200,000.
The couple lived in a $8.6m home in Closeburn station in Queenstown, which the judgment said was "undoubtedly relationship property" and subject to a powerful presumption of equal sharing.
The property has views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables, and has been on the market.
Sophie Biggs is seeking half of the couple's relationship property and is also attempting to get a share of the wealth which she says her husband has available to him through trusts and companies she claims he controls.
Stephen Biggs, however, argues he was wealthy when the relationship began. And he says whatever interest he has in the companies and trusts, it is not relationship property.
His position is that because his ex-wife is seeking a share of the substantial wealth he had before their relationship began (including properties he owns in Australia and Argentina), the case was not one where there should not be equal sharing of relationship property.
Sophie Biggs' accountant has estimated companies and trusts associated with Stephen Biggs are worth $59m. Stephen Biggs, however, argues that this is at least a $25m over-valuation.
Sophie Biggs asserts that the couple's former family home, $16m allegedly owed to her husband by a trust and a company, Stephen Biggs' shares in another firm and his $1.4m superannuation fund is relationship property.
Stephen Biggs denies that Sophie Biggs has any entitlement against trust property or against him in respect of property owned by the trusts.