The breadwinner vs. the homemaker, Dubai vs. London…the first potential battle of many in a high-net worth divorce case is likely to be that of where the divorce will take place. London is notorious for being the world’s divorce capital but what is it about this city which attracts future divorcees in their hundreds of thousands?
International big money divorce cases are flocking to London. The Times reported in 2012 that approximately one half of ‘big money’ cases involved international couples. Their reason for doing so – equality. English courts regard marriage as a partnership, the fruits of which should be shared. This principle was reinforced by the House of Lords in White v White and by subsequent developments in case law. The court will initially look to need, and where the assets are more than substantial to meet the needs of both parties, there is an assumption of equal sharing. This has produced a system where contribution to a marriage is not simply calculated by totalling financial contribution. The homemaker is considered as equally an important role as that of the breadwinner. The courts recognise that, particularly where children are involved, one party will often be required to leave their career, temporarily or permanently, in order to care for the family. And so, for a couple where individual financial contribution to the marriage may be rather uneven, the financially weaker spouse will often seek to have their divorce proceedings carried out in the English courts.
Establishing jurisdiction in England and Wales is the first step in having a divorce case heard by the courts here. As with many legal terms, the judiciary are not entirely unanimous as to what constitutes ‘residence’ for the purpose of establishing jurisdiction in England. Generally speaking, this will depend on where you have been living (“habitual residence”) or where you are domiciled, though this may not be where you are domiciled for tax purposes.
Once jurisdiction has been established, an individual may begin divorce proceedings in the English courts. Judicial discretion plays a very large role in how a financial settlement is reached. Judges in our courts also have significant power to demand financial disclosure whereby both parties will be asked to set out the full extent of their assets, investments and earnings. As well as the power to uncover assets and improve financial transparency, the court may also use their powers to enforce any order made, such as freezing assets to prevent them being disposed of prior to a settlement.
The string of large pay outs seen in the English courts earned London its reputation as the divorce capital of the world. In London, divorce is big business. Home to some of the finest legal minds and a long standing court system, London is well able to cater to the influx of high net worth couples seeking a “fair” settlement. Now that specialist financial remedy courts are being trialled in England and South East Wales, it is likely that London will become an even more favourable place in which to file for divorce. These specialist courts will allow high net worth divorce cases to be heard by judges with particular expertise in dealing with big money cases. This will make for improved judicial continuity in cases, increased efficiency and ultimately, a better outcome for both parties. This development will continue to attract international couples to London in their hundreds of thousands. As such, London looks set to maintain its title as divorce capital of the world.
Thea – Vardags
The firm has a presence in five of the UK’s most prestigious cities: in the City of London overlooking St Paul’s, in the historic Cathedral streets of Winchester, in the stately heart of Manchester, in the bustling city centre of Newcastle, and in the intellectually-charged streets of Cambridge.