London – “maintenance capital of the UK”
It has recently been reported in the media that Charles Villiers (age 54), a relative of the Duchess of Cornwall, has quoted that his soon to be ex-wife, Emma Villiers is “trying it on” because she has decided to issue financial proceedings at Court in England after he has issued divorce proceedings in Scotland.
The couple were originally living in Scotland and Mr Villiers has remained living there since they separated in 2012. Mrs Villiers moved to London with their daughter and Mr Villiers issued divorce proceedings in 2014.
Scotland v England
Law in relation to divorce and finances is different between England and Scotland. For example, under English Law, it is well known that maintenance claims are far more generous for the receiving spouse, which is why Mr Villiers would have wanted to “beat his wife to it” by issuing the divorce in Scotland and believing the finances would have to be dealt with in the same jurisdiction. Under Scottish Law, inherited wealth is also not taken in to account when dividing the matrimonial pot, which again is beneficial for Mr Villiers as most of his £5million family wealth was inherited. The same is not to be said under English Law.
Mrs Villiers would have had a right to issue divorce proceedings in England because she was “habitually resident” there at the time. However rather than issuing the divorce in England and making an application to pause the divorce proceedings in Scotland so there could be a fight over which jurisdiction should deal with the divorce, she instead made an application to the English courts directly for an interim spousal maintenance order. This is a short term order to receive monthly maintenance until the overall financial settlement could be resolved. Mrs Villiers was granted this order to receive £5,500 per month from her husband as the Judge saw no reason why “divorce should not proceed in one jurisdiction and maintenance in another”.
Opening the floodgates?
This logic however could potentially open the floodgates of others repeating Mrs Villiers behaviour in that if the couple live in another jurisdiction outside England and divorce proceedings are issued in that jurisdiction, then the financially weaker party could move to live in England where they could get a better financial deal including monthly maintenance. Hence why Mr Villiers has warned London will become the “maintenance capital of the United Kingdom” and why traditionally it has also been seen as the “divorce capital of the world”.
Mr Villiers therefore challenged the English Court’s ruling saying that they have no right to interfere with the divorce proceedings in Scotland and he has won the right to Appeal. The Appeal is yet to be heard so no doubt family law solicitors and barrister will be keen to learn the outcome.
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