When couples who live an international life-style take the decision to separate, the question of which county’s court system should hear their divorce can sometimes become hotly contested.
Couples who own properties in several different countries will sometimes be able to choose which of these countries they would like to file for divorce in, however couples won’t always be in agreement over this decision, particularly where there is a significant difference in wealth between the parties.
When it comes to financial settlements on divorce, the family law system in England is generally seen to allow for more generous settlements and therefore is often the divorce destination of choice for the less wealthy spouse. At the same time, and for obvious reasons, the spouse with comparatively more assets is usually keen to avoid the English courts.
One wealthy couple currently in dispute over jurisdictions is Charles and Emma Villiers, reports the Daily Mail.
They lived in Scotland for most of their married life, but after the relationship broke down Mrs Villiers moved to London. In 2014 Mr Villiers, who is thought to have assets amounting to around £5 million, filed for divorce in Scotland, but several months later Mrs Villiers submitted an application for financial maintenance in England, seeking £10,000 month.
In 2016 a court ruling found that because Mrs Villiers was now ‘habitually resident’ in England, she had the right to have her settlement application heard in the English courts. She was awarded £5,500 a month as an interim measure until a full hearing on her settlement entitlement could be heard.
Mr Villiers has now challenged that decision, claiming that it should be up to the Scottish courts to decide on the financial settlement, as that is where the divorce has been filed.
However, Mrs Villiers has argued that under EU law the question of maintenance is separate from the divorce itself, and doesn’t have to be settled under the same jurisdiction. She maintains that there is therefore no reason why her financial settlement claim can’t be settled in England, even though the divorce itself is being processed in Scotland.
A second couple currently in dispute over whether England is the appropriate jurisdiction to hear their divorce is Una Kelly and John Pyres, reports the Evening Standard.
The couple owns properties in London, Brussels and Italy. Ms Kelly was apparently born in England but most of her childhood was spent in Ireland. Mr Pyres was born in India, and also lived briefly in England, but now considers Italy to be his true home. The couple most recently lived together in Bosnia, which is where Mr Pyres thinks their divorce should be heard. However, Ms Kelly wants the divorce to be heard in England, and has been given permission by the courts to proceed with her application.
Mr Pyres has challenged this decision, claiming that his wife never saw England as her permanent home. However, Ms Kelly told the Appeal Court in support of her claim that she views their property in London as her home and that she plans to live in England when she retires.
We await the outcome of both these cases with interest.
For expert legal advice on all aspects of divorce and separation, including financial arrangements, then contact our specialist family lawyers today.