Pick and mix jurisdictions – does it really matter where you divorce?
If you are looking to get divorced, the area where you live and the jurisdiction under which you file the Court papers could now play a vital role in determining what financial relief you receive.
An impending decision by the Court of Appeal on the case of Villiers could see London becoming the maintenance capital of the world, attracting people to the area simply to achieve a more favourable settlement.
The Villiers’s were married for 17 years before separating in 2012. They spent most of their family life in an 8-bedroom manor house in Scotland. However, after the separation Mrs Villiers moved to London with their adult daughter.
Mr Villiers, a publishing Baron, filed for divorce in Scotland but three months later Mrs Villiers applied for financial relief in the Courts of England and Wales. She was successful in her application and he was ordered to pay maintenance and a cost allowance of £5,500 per month, with no set end date.
Mr Villiers was declared bankrupt in 2013 leading to the repossession of the family home. However, he retains a 50% share of a £3.5m family trust fund inherited from his grandmother, and £600,000 inherited outright from his mother. Mr Villiers therefore accused his wife of shopping around for the most preferable settlement as Scottish law does not take inherited wealth into account when deciding settlements, whereas English law does. Scottish law would also have restricted the settlement to a three year period following settlement of the divorce.
The High Court Judge, Mrs Justice Parker, concluded that Mrs Villiers was a resident of England and there was no reason why the divorce could not take place in one jurisdiction and the financial element of their separation in another. Mr Villiers has appealed the decision on the basis that he believes Scotland is the most appropriate jurisdiction to consider their separation as it is where they lived as a married couple. A ruling is expected to be made shortly.
What does it mean?
If the Court of Appeal rules in favour of Mrs Villiers, this could have a significant impact on couples looking to divorce. For some couples, the choice of jurisdiction will simply be limited to the Courts of England and Wales. However, where two jurisdictions are at play, this may lead to a race to file Court papers in the most preferable jurisdiction to you.
It is always important to make informed choices when you separate. If you are in the process of separating and would like to discuss the possible outcomes, or how this may impact you, please contact Natalie Suret, Solicitor, Family.
Published: 6 Sep 2017