Calderbank v Calderbank

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Calderbank v Calderbank
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg
Court English Court of Appeal
Full case name Jacqueline Anne Calderbank v John Thomas Calderbank
Decided 5 June 1975
Citation(s) ADR LR 06/05 [1975], FAM 93 CA [1976], 3 All ER 333 [1975]
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Cairns LJ, Scarman LJ, Willman LJ
Calderbank offer, settlement offer

Calderbank v Calderbank ADR LR 06/05 [1975], FAM 93 CA [1976], 3 All ER 333 [1975], is an important case from the English Court of Appeal from, which established the concept of what is universally referred to as a "Calderbank Offer",[1] which effectively means where one party refuses a settlement offer from the other party, and the matter proceeds to trial and that party’s award is less than the declined settlement offer, can severely reduce any award for court costs that that party might otherwise been legally entitled to, and in some cases can result in the winning party being made to pay the losing parties court and legal costs.

It is typically evident in pre trial settlement offers, where the offers are marked "without prejudice, save to costs".


After a marriage of 17 years, Mr and Mrs Calderbank separated and filed for divorce, which was duly granted.

However substantial difficulties arose regarding the division of the matrimonial assets of £78,000, consisting of the £80,000 Mrs Calderbank had previously inherited during the relationship from the estates from the death of both her parents. Complicating matters further, the matrimonial home was registered under only under Mr Calderbank’s name (due to fiscal reasons) and he continued to live in this property after the divorce.

The matter was referred to the Family Court, and the judge awarded Mr Calderbank the modest amount of £10,000 (out of the total assets of £78,000), as well as court costs.

However prior to the matter going to trial, Mrs Calderbank had made the following offer via no less than the form of an affidavit "I am willing, and have always been willing, to make over to the [husband] the house at Alderley Edge", which Mr Calderbank declined.

While this house was not the matrimonial home (it was rented by Mr Calderbank’s father, and Mr Calderbank's mother lived there), the trial judge was of the opinion that this house was worth about £12,000, which was £2,000 more than Mr Calderbank later obtained at trial.

Mrs Calderbank, not happy with the outcome, appealed on 2 grounds, first that the courts had no legal jurisdiction to make such a property division, and secondly, and of most legal significance, that as Mr Calderbank had obviously declined a reasonable pre trial settlement offer, he should not be entitled to legal costs for unnecessarily prolonging these legal proceedings.


The Court of Appeal upheld the Family Court ruling of the £10,000, but reversed the Family Courts award of legal costs to Mr Calderbank, as he had unnecessarily prolonged the legal proceedings when he had earlier refused to accept a prior reasonable (and greater) settlement offer of effectively £12,000.


  1. ^ Davenport, Philip (2006). Construction Claims. Federation Press. p. 261. ISBN 1862876088. 

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