A multimillion-dollar divorce case that could be one of the country's largest has got under way in Auckland, with the husband being accused of "dragging the chain" over a $700,000 payment.

Former Queenstown woman Sophie Annabelle Biggs is battling to get her share of an estimated $59 million from her husband Stephen Timothy Biggs in a divorce fight.

The couple began living together in 2010 and had a child before separating in 2016.

They lived in a $8.6m home in Closeburn station in Queenstown but both now reside in Australia, and each appeared at court via audio visual link from their respective locations.


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The Court of Appeal this month ruled Stephen Biggs must pay his wife $700,000 "without delay", after the mother of three young children with no independent income sought funds to fight her corner.

Her lawyer, Lady Deborah Chambers QC, previously 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.

As the hearing got under way in the High Court at Auckland on Monday, Chambers told Justice Gerald Nation despite sending letters,​ there had still been no payment received from Stephen Biggs.

"He is verging on contempt of court ... there appears to be a dragging of the chain, by Mr Biggs."

But counsel for Stephen Biggs, Jan McCartney QC, said the funds were being made available, though she was not sure of the exact timing.

Justice Nation said he was satisfied the payment would be made.

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 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.

In her opening submission, Chambers said it would be a "complicated" case, with key issues around the division of relationship property and how trusts were used.


The business interests had been "tremendously successful" during their marriage, and grew by tens of millions of dollars.

"She should be entitled to fair share of that increase," Chambers said.

She alleged Stephen Biggs had used his trusts as a "means of sheltering wealth accumulated during the relationship".

Justice Nation responded that New Zealand law meant there was a distinction between trusts, and personally owned property.

Chambers said the common law system around the world was "moving" - as in Australia - to remove that distinction.

"Some lawyers say trusts are okay, meanwhile others, and I feel the majority, say they are cloaks to avoid obligations everyone else has."


Legislation was designed to ensure the "fruits of a marriage" were shared, and the "equality of women was maintained and enhanced", and Chambers said those principles needed to be taken into account.

The court is yet to hear submissions for Stephen Biggs.

The hearing is expected to run for three weeks.