Posted in Family Law
Recent news that the ex-wife of an oil and gas trader has been awarded £453m in one of the biggest divorce settlements ever agreed by a UK court has certainly made the headlines.
Stories attached to incredible wealth make the media sit up and take notice, but the recent case has confirmed London’s status as the preferred location to bring divorce claims against super-rich spouses.
The couple in this case were not identified by the family court judge but both the man, 61, and woman, 44, herald from Eastern Europe and were raised in Russia
They moved to London in 1993 and have two children and both accused each other of having affairs. The woman insisted their relationship had continued after her affair and only ended in 2013.
It was a somewhat bizarre case, where in his judgement, Judge Haddon-Cave found there was a “subsisting marriage”, because the couple continued to holiday together and sleep together, and the woman used two of her husband’s credit cards, as well as his yacht, plane and helicopter.
The woman’s legal team said she needed around £40m to purchase a home in England as a result of the divorce, as well as £28m to buy a property abroad and needed an additional £5.36m a year to live on.
The man was non-resident in the UK for tax purposes, which meant he could only spend 90 days a year in Britain.
Interestingly, and concluding his judgment, the judge said the couple had marital assets worth £1bn and their wealth had been built up over the course of the marriage through “equal contributions to the welfare of the family, and should be subject to the sharing principle”.
Therefore, he said a split approaching 50:50 was appropriate.
Here at Pindoria Solicitors, we believe this huge divorce settlement represents yet another example of the English courts generosity towards the financially weaker spouse. It is a principle planted in the belief that breadwinners’ and homemakers’ respective contributions to a marriage are of equal importance. Bearing this in mind, London continues to be seen as the divorce capital of the world for those looking for a share of their super-wealthy spouse’s fortune.
Taking away the mind-boggling figures though, the words of former Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who has campaigned for greater transparency in family justice, is worth noting. He said the secrecy around the case undermined, “the fundamental underlying principle” of open justice here in British courts.
Mr Hemming said: “Here we have a case involving a foreign billionaire who has been heard in a family court in London entirely behind closed doors. Yet the British taxpayer pays the judge’s wages and the wages of the court staff.”
He has a valid point.
When all is said and done though, once again this case shows how complex it can be to extrapolate oneself from a marriage. In all cases, it is good to have a sound firm of solicitors on board, whatever your circumstances.