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British Courts: The Divorce Capital for the Rich and Powerful, Kirsty Morbey discusses

Two high profile Family Judges, Sir Paul Coleridge and Lord Justice Thorpe have both recently expressed their concerns that London has gained the reputation of being the divorce payout capital of the world. This reputation has lead to foreign nationals engaging in ‘forum shopping’, which is where the party seeking to start the divorce proceedings, commences them in the jurisdiction which they believe will be the most favourable to them financially, even if they have a very loose connection to the country.Over recent years the British courts have been seen to hand out extremely generous financial settlements to the wives of rich and powerful businessmen, such as in the cases of Miller and McFarlane. A more recent case involves a Russian couple Ilva and Elena Golubovich, who are both Russian citizens. The couple have lived all over the world, including London and on this basis Mrs Golubovich has sought to secure a British divorce. In March 2011 she secured a £2.8 million settlement in the British Court. Her lawyer has claimed that in Russia she would have been left penniless and stated that the settlement could turn Britain into the ‘divorce capital of the world’.The latest twist in this case however has seen 3 appeal court judges accepting that the decree of divorce that Mr Golubovich obtained in Russia is in fact valid and therefore, Mrs Golubovich’s decree and settlement obtained in March has been set aside. The Court also severely criticised the use of the British jurisdiction in this case, particularly when the Courts are under severe pressure to deal with a high volume of family work from British citizens alone.From a practitioner’s point of view, the delays caused by Court proceedings in a divorce case, simply prolong the emotional turmoil experienced by the parties, until their matter is finally resolved. The fact that precious Court time is being taken up by divorcing couples who are not citizens of this country and have a very loose connection to the same, but also have the money to fund expensive proceedings, will bring little comfort to those who are anxiously waiting for a Court date to resolve their own marital issues.