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Divorce Tourism

Could England and Wales become the destination for divorce and financial settlements? As it becomes more commonplace for couples and families to move around, or spend time apart and in different parts of the UK, or indeed the world, during their relationship or after it has broken down, it is not uncommon for the courts of two different countries to have jurisdiction to make a decision on financial or childcare issues which arise on separation.

Married in 1994, the couple lived together in Dunbartonshire and spent all but one year of their married life in Scotland until they separated in 2012. Mrs Villiers and the parties’ daughter then moved to London following the separation. Initially, a divorce action was raised in England by Mrs Villiers, however Mr Villiers then petitioned a separate divorce action in Scotland. Despite the fact the action was first raised in England, the crucial factor in intra-UK divorce jurisdiction disputes is where the couple last lived together before separation. In this instance, the couple had lived in Scotland and so the Scottish action would be allowed to proceed in any event, and Mrs Villiers conceded this. Shortly thereafter, however, Mrs Villiers applied to the courts south of the border for financial maintenance or ‘periodical payment’ as the place of her ‘habitual residence’. Mrs Justice Parker, sitting at London’s High Court, saw no reason why the divorce should not proceed in one jurisdiction and the maintenance in another and approved £5,500-a-month interim maintenance payments while the final divorce settlement was decided. It is important to note that this

Mr Villiers has claimed that his wife has been ‘rewarded’ for moving to England, where maintenance rules are far more generous in comparison with those in Scotland. Under Scottish law, inherited wealth is not included in divorce settlements and maintenance payouts are generally limited to just three years post-divorce. This is in marked contrast to England, where Mrs Villiers could potentially secure financial support for the rest of her life.

Mr Villiers has won the right to appeal that ruling, claiming that the English court has no right to interfere in a Scottish divorce matter. The appeal date is yet to be fixed.

This blog entry was written by Scott Fulton, LLB (Hons), Dip LP.

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