In a recent Supreme Court Judgement, the Court found that an aristocratic couple who had commenced divorce proceedings in Scotland could continue the wife’s claim for the matrimonial finances to be considered in England. Does this lead the way to divorce tourism?
The facts of the case
Charles Villiers and his wife Emma Villiers were married in 1994 and separated in 2012. The couple had spent the majority of their married life in their family home in Scotland. After their separation, Mrs Villiers moved to London with their (adult) daughter.
Mr Villiers filed for divorce in 2014 in Scotland. In 2015 Emma Villiers made an application under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 in England seeking maintenance. Mr Villiers argued that Mrs Villiers’ application should not proceed because the English court did not have the jurisdiction to deal with her maintenance application. On 1st July 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that Mrs Villiers could proceed with her application for maintenance in England.
Why would Mrs Villiers want to make an application for maintenance in England rather than Scotland, given the divorce proceedings are in Scotland?
If Mrs Villiers had made an application under Scottish law, any maintenance Ordered may have only be granted for a three years. By comparison, English law does not have this limitation in relation to maintenance claims.
Divorce tourism is the term given to cases where the matrimonial finances are occurring in a different jurisdiction than the original divorce petition. There are concerns that because of today’s ruling, there will be more cases that will allow the ‘wife’ to go jurisdiction-shopping to try and obtain a more favourable outcome than the original jurisdiction that is dealing with the divorce proceedings.
This case does, however, highlight that the English law has a preference of looking at all the matters of the case and in turn may be deemed to have a preference of protecting the more vulnerable party.
If you would like further information in relation to matrimonial finances or divorce please contact Eleanor Pearson for further information on 0118 9589711 or email [email protected]. Eleanor also offers an initial confidential fixed fee meeting for £95.
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If you would like further information, Eleanor Pearson offers an initial one hour fixed fee meeting at a cost of £95 (inc. VAT). During these meeting we can discuss your personal circumstances, options and possible next steps.
Due to the current circumstances, meetings can occur via telephone. We are hoping that meetings at our office in Reading can occur soon. Please call the office on 0118 9589711 or email [email protected] if you would like to book a meeting.
Eleanor is a Family Law solicitor and is a member of Resolution. Eleanor specialises in divorce, financial matters and private children matters.