Irish couple settle £800,000 divorce battle over West of Ireland cottage at London High Court

Irish couple settle £800,000 divorce battle over West of Ireland cottage at London High Court

AN IRISH couple £800,000 divorce battle over a West of Ireland cottage at the High Court in London has been settled.

Margie Hanley, 56, and her estranged husband Michael, 60, lived together in Wentworth, Surrey, but both wanted the joint owned cottaged in Corr na Móna in Co. Galway.

Mr Justice Holman was overseeing the public hearing and heard the case over two days.

It ended yesterday, March 8 as lawyers said the estranged couple had reached an agreement that would see Mrs Hanley as owner of the cottage.

Judge Holman said that the couple, who also have an apartment in Florida, would split cash and assets totalling between £10million and £14million.

He also added that between them, the Hanley's had run up lawyers' bills of more than £800,000 on what he described as a "titanic battle."

Mr Hanley, who has retired after a career with multinational conglomerate GE, claimed their 33-year marriage hit the rocks after he discovered that his wife had an affair.

Mrs Hanley, who denies adultery, said Mr Hanley had told her that she could have the house in Cornamona and was ''punishing'' her.

Mrs Hanley, who still lives in Wentworth, says she should have the Corr na Móna house because generations of her family have lived in the village.

The judge has heard that the couple had lived in Europe, the Far East and the United States because Mr Hanley's work had taken him abroad.

They had built the house in Co. Galway about 16 years ago and had gone there for holidays and at Christmas.

Mr Hanley has been living at the house in Ireland  for the past few months and wanted it to be a retirement base.

Mr Justice Holman heard that there had been suggestions of Mrs Hanley living elsewhere in Corr na Móna.

He also raised the possibility of the pair, who have grown-up children, using the house at different times of the year.

But Mrs Hanley told him: ''We are getting divorced. The village isn't big enough for both of us.''

Mr Justice Holman told Mr and Mrs Hanley he was "very, very glad" that an agreement had been reached.

"Obviously I regret it could not have been sooner and some of these massive costs saved," said the judge. "In the nicest possible way I hope that we will never have to see each other again.

"It is has been very painful for me to listen to what really is a very sad story because for so long you together achieved so much and I am sorry it has ended in the way it has.

"But in all events you are on the threshold of new lives and I wish all possible happiness in those new lives."

Mr Justice Holman had been scheduled to hear closing legal arguments from barristers on Wednesday before making a ruling, but early in the day lawyers told him that both sides were ''talking'' and Mr and Mrs Hanley spent several hours in behind-closed-door negotiations.

A barrister leading Mrs Hanley's legal team then told the judge that agreement had been reached.

Stewart Leech QC said under the agreement Mrs Hanley would become the owner of the Corr na Móna house - and the house the couple had shared in Wentworth.

Stephen Trowell QC, who led Mr Hanley's legal team, said "everybody" was bound by the agreement.

Neither Mr nor Mrs Hanley wanted to comment outside court. Mrs Hanley was hugged by one of her lawyers as she left.