London has earned the tag of “divorce capital of the world” as wives and dependants of millionaires head to the High Court to try to take advantage of generous maintenance and child support orders in this country.
Under EU rules, divorces filed and finalised in a member state are automatically recognised in other European countries. However, that agreement is due to expire at the end of December when the Brexit transition period ends.
Matthew Taylor, a solicitor at Stone Family Law, warned today the post-Brexit divorce rules are “extremely murky” and couples could find themselves locked in expensive international battles over where their divorce battle should be fought.
“Divorcing couples with ties to an EU country would be well-advised to issue proceedings prior to the end of transition period to avoid the immense uncertainty and added costs that could arise for any later divorce,” he said.
“Acting sooner rather than later would be sensible as there may well be a rush to issue proceedings at the end of December. Given the overburdened state of the Family Court at present, this may lead to significant further delays both for the international couples and any other court users given the likely knock-on effect of a spike in divorce and financial applications.”
In 2017, former Miss Malaysia Pauline Chai won a £64 million payout from her ex-husband Khoo Kay Peng.
Dr Khoo, a non-executive chairman of Laura Ashley Holdings, had sought to restrict the payout to just £9 million and argued through the courts that the divorce battle should be heard in Thailand rather than London.
The mega-bucks divorce battle between Tatiana Akhmedova and Russian oligarch Farkhad Akhmedov is still ongoing despite a £453 million payout being approved by a judge in London four years ago, with protracted legal battles being waged around the world.
Mr Taylor said ministers need to focus on a “long-term solution” to post-Brexit divorce laws to protect the reputation of the courts in England and Wales. He pointed out that 14 European countries have not signed the Hague Convention on the Recognition of Divorces and Legal Separations, which means UK judgments would not be recognised.
Currently regulations mean that divorces in one member state will, generally, be automatically recognised in another. This will apply to any case started during the transition.
However, the position becomes extremely murky following the expiration of the transition period,” he said. “It is to be hoped that the Government ensures that family law receives a seat at the table in further negotiations with the European Union.”