If you have been divorced abroad but are habitually resident in this country, English family judges have the power to ensure that you receive a fair share of the marital assets. In a case on point, the High Court awarded a woman whose marriage was dissolved in Russia, but who had settled in London, a financial settlement of £5 million.
The middle-aged former couple, both Russian nationals, had three children during their 22-year marriage. From very modest beginnings, the husband had achieved great things in business and they had enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle. By the time of their divorce in Russia, the wife had already been living in London for some years and the Court noted that she was clearly habitually resident in England.
After the wife launched proceedings under the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984, seeking financial relief following an overseas divorce, the husband failed to engage in the proceedings and repeatedly disobeyed court orders requiring him to disclose the extent of his wealth. The Court described his litigation conduct and his manipulation of the wife in relation to the Russian divorce as 'appalling'.
The husband's failure to cooperate meant that very little evidence was available, but the Court concluded that he was worth at least £22 million. The wife, who was a teenager when she married him, had made a full and equal contribution to the acquisition of the marital fortune and, had she been divorced in England, she would have been entitled to half that sum under the sharing principle. Having acquired British citizenship, her connection to this country was strong.
In the circumstances, the Court found that it would be wrong to confine the wife to a solely needs-based award. She had moderated her lifestyle since the divorce and her measured and well-judged claim was based on a very reasonable budget. £5 million, together with assets worth around £1.6 million that she already held, represented a little under 30 per cent of the total marital wealth. Given his poor behaviour, the husband was ordered to pay the wife's £170,000 legal costs.