The English courts are well known worldwide as being amongst the most ‘generous’ to divorcing spouses in terms of financial settlements: they start with the premise that assets built up during the marriage should be split equally unless there is a good reason to do otherwise.
The English courts are therefore a popular jurisdiction to choose when deciding in what country a divorce will be dealt with. In a recent case, a Russian divorcee whose marriage had lasted a mere 18 months was awarded £2.8 million by the High Court. That ruling was immediately appealed to the Court of Appeal, which upheld the decision. The woman brought the case in the English court on the basis that she and her ex-husband had lived in the UK for some years and that her ex-husband’s mother maintained a flat in London.
The result came after an unsavoury ‘divorce race’ in which the woman’s then husband pipped her to the post by securing a divorce in Russia. She succeeded in having that divorce set aside by the High Court in 2010, only for the Court of Appeal to overturn that decision and rule that the Russian divorce was valid. However, the Court ruled that the couple’s links with the UK were sufficient to allow her to make a claim on her ex-husband’s assets.
Divorce can present significant complexities when one or more of the divorcing couple is foreign, resides abroad or the marriage was contracted abroad.