Once again it appears that the record for the biggest money divorce to be dealt with by the courts in this country is to be broken. And once again it seems that it will be the wife of a Russian oligarch who will be seeking to break the record for the largest divorce award. That record is thought to be held by Tatiana Akhmedova, who was awarded £453 million in 2016.

That record, however, could be eclipsed by Natalia Potanina, the former wife of Vladimir Potanin, who made his reputed £15 billion-plus wealth in metals, following the break up of the Soviet Union. Mrs Potanina is reportedly seeking a lump sum of £5.76 billion, claiming that she was by his side as he built up his fortune from nothing.

The couple were together for some 31 years and had three children (all of whom are now grown up), before they separated in 2013. They were subsequently divorced in Russia, but Mrs Potanina has been living in London since 2016, hence the claim in the High Court. The courts in this country are considered by many to be considerably more generous to wives than the courts in many other countries (financial claims can be pursued here following foreign divorces, if either party lives here).

Most people, of course, can only dream of such sums. No matter what your wealth, however, Family Law Cafe can help you through your divorce. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe offers a modern, agile and compassionate approach to family law, giving you a helping hand when you need it and guiding you through the complexities of this difficult and stressful area.

Image of Nornickel office in Norilsk by Ninara, licensed under CC BY 2.0. Mr Potanin is the largest shareholder in Nornickel.

In the last few days the breakdown of the marriage of the celebrity chef and television presenter Paul Hollywood has been in the news, occupying many column-inches in the popular press. However, as with so many celebrity divorces, the stories perpetuate various common myths surrounding divorce.

The stories all refer to Mr Hollywood’s new relationship with a 24 year old woman, and speculate that his wife Alex will issue divorce proceedings on the basis of his adultery. However, we are told, Mr Hollywood denies that he has committed adultery, as the relationship only began after he and his wife separated. We don’t know whether this report is true, but it does highlight a myth about adultery: that it can only happen if the husband and wife are still living together. This is simply wrong: adultery is still adultery even if they are separated.

The stories also suggest that Mr Hollywood’s adultery could have a bearing upon any financial settlement. Again, this is a myth. Adultery has no bearing whatsoever. In fact, the conduct of the parties only has a bearing in an extremely small number of cases, when it is especially bad.

The other myth comes from the report that Mrs Hollywood is seeking to “have her day in court”, where she can finally have her “say over the end of their 20-year marriage”, following the breakdown of mediation between the parties regarding financial matters. This suggests that she will have an opportunity “get her own back”, by blaming her husband in court for the breakdown of the marriage. She will not. If the parties are not able to resolve financial matters by agreement, there will be a financial remedies hearing, but the court will not be interested in the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage, as they are not relevant to the issue of any financial settlement.

If you would like advice regarding the factors that are relevant to any financial settlement, Family Law Cafe can provide it. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe offers a modern, agile and compassionate approach to family law, giving you a helping hand when you need it and guiding you through the complexities of this difficult and stressful area.

Image of Paul Hollywood by Tim Fields [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

 

The Ant McPartlin divorce is back in the news again. It has been reported that the divorce is in ‘deadlock’, with the parties unable to reach an agreement on a financial settlement.

We don’t know the details of what is happening in the McPartlin divorce, but obviously it is not uncommon that matters grind to a halt without an agreement being reached. What can you do if this happens to you?

The first thing to say is that you cannot force the other party to put forward settlement proposals, or to respond to any proposals you make. However, the court will usually take a very dim view of any party that does not make a reasonable effort to negotiate, and may ultimately penalise them with a costs order.

If the other party simply refuses to enter into negotiation then you may have no alternative other than to take the matter to court. Similarly, if the parties are so far apart in their proposals that agreement seems impossible, then again it may be necessary to take the matter to court. However, in that instance there are alternatives.

The first alternative is mediation. This is a voluntary process whereby a trained mediator will try to help the parties settle matters by agreement, even if they seem way apart. If an agreement can be reached then it will be made into a binding court order.

Another alternative is arbitration. This is different from mediation, in that the arbitrator’s decision will be binding, and therefore arbitration will definitely bring the case to a conclusion. Arbitration is again voluntary, but it can be much quicker than going to court.

For further information about resolving matters out of court, see this post.

If your divorce seems to be going nowhere, there are steps that you can take to break the deadlock. Family Law Cafe can help you to do this. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe offers a modern, agile and compassionate approach to family law, giving you a helping hand when you need it and guiding you through the complexities of this difficult and stressful area.

Image of Anthony McPartlin by Ben Salter (From Flickr) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

It has been reported in The Japan Times that, with the divorce rate increasing in the country, more Japanese couples are entering into pre-nuptial agreements.

The primary reason that Japanese couples are entering into pre-nuptial agreements is, of course, to protect themselves financially should the marriage break down. However, the report states that the agreements are also being used to impose conditions upon how the parties behave towards one another during the marriage, for example sharing domestic chores, contacting each other every day, and always spending their wedding anniversaries together.

Pre-nuptial agreements are also attracting increasing interest in this country, even though they are not strictly legally binding here. Despite that, the courts here are likely to go along with the terms of an agreement, if they are considered to be fair. Having said that, the courts here would be unlikely to be interested in enforcing the sort of conditions in agreements mentioned above!

For a brief summary of how the courts in this country approach pre-nuptial agreements, see this post.

If you are considering entering into a pre-nuptial agreement, or would like any further advice about them, Family Law Cafe can help. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe offers a modern, agile and compassionate approach to family law, giving you a helping hand when you need it and guiding you through the complexities of this difficult and stressful area.

Image of Japanese Wedding by ThisParticularGreg, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

How to cut through court delays

Last week a headline appeared in a national newspaper declaring: “Long court delays lead to boom in private divorces”. But what exactly is meant by the term ‘private divorce’?

Of course, there is no such thing as a ‘private divorce’. Divorces are dealt with by the court, and that cannot be circumvented. However, parts of the processes connected with divorce can be dealt with privately, by the agreement of the parties.

The primary reason for agreeing to deal with matters privately is that, as the newspaper headline indicated, they can often be dealt with much more quickly than they would be dealt with by the court. Often, court hearings are fixed some way into the future, and then it is not unusual to find that the judge is too busy to deal with the case on the day fixed for the hearing, leading to further delays.

To get around this, many litigants are agreeing to go private in order to progress matters more quickly. The most common examples of this relate to financial remedy proceedings connected to the divorce.

At an early stage in financial remedy proceedings a ‘Financial Dispute Resolution’ (‘FDR’) appointment takes place, at which the judge will try to help the parties settle the matter by agreement, failing which they will give directions as to how the case should proceed. For a fee the parties can appoint a specialist family lawyer to carry out the FDR privately, usually much more quickly than the court would deal with it.

Another example is arbitration, whereby a trained family arbitrator will make a final decision on a family dispute, which will be binding upon the parties, just the same as a court’s decision. Again, arbitration is likely to be much quicker than waiting for the court to deal with the matter. For more detail about the arbitration process, see this post.

If you would like more information about private FDRs and arbitration, Family Law Cafe can help. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe surrounds and supports the customer with both legal and pastoral care, end to end, from top barristers to case workers to therapists and mediators, to help the customer get the best possible result with the minimum stress.

Image: PRIVATE, by Tristan Ferne, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Last week Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, reputedly the world’s richest man, announced that he and his wife MacKenzie are seeking a divorce. The news has caused a stir amongst divorce lawyers around the world, but what could it mean in terms of a divorce settlement?

Relevant factors are that the couple were married in 1993, a year before Mr Bezos founded Amazon. It has been reported that they did not enter into a prenuptial agreement, so any settlement would be calculated by reference to the relevant divorce laws. According to the American business magazine Forbes, Mr Bezos has an estimated net worth of $122 billion.

Mr and Mrs Bezos reside in Washington state, which uses a “community property” approach to decide how to divide assets on divorce. Under this approach, all property acquired after the date of the marriage is presumed to be “community property”, in which each spouse has an interest. Unless one spouse can show that a specific item of property falls within an exception to this rule, all of the assets acquired during the marriage could be divided equally. This could mean that Mrs Bezos would receive the largest divorce award ever.

If the divorce were taking place in England there could potentially be a similar result, as the English courts use the “sharing principle”, whereby each party is entitled to an equal share of the assets of the marriage (i.e. the assets acquired during the marriage), unless there is a good reason to the contrary.

Happily, Mr and Mrs Bezos have indicated that the separation is amicable. We hope that it remains that way, and that they are able to resolve matters between them by agreement, rather than through the courts.

If you would like any further information as to the principles that the courts in this country use to decide financial settlements on divorce, see this post. For more detailed advice regarding your own case, book an initial consultation with us by clicking the green button at the top of this page and filling in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe provides a genuinely tailored technology-based service, allowing customers to be as involved or as removed as they wish, and to benefit from as much or as little support as they require.

Image of Jeff Bezos by Seattle City Council from Seattle [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

We reported here last month that a Sharia court in Dubai had dismissed an application by a wife to enforce an English divorce court order that a £346 million luxury yacht, which is currently moored there, must be transferred to her as part of her divorce settlement.

The wife, Tatiana Akhmedova, was awarded £453 million from her Russian oligarch ex-husband Farkhad Akhmedov, by Mr Justice Haddon-Cave in the High Court in December 2016.

Well, the Dubai court order hasn’t stopped Mrs Akhmedova from seeking to recover the monies owed to her. It has now been reported that she has had a helicopter that was once used to ferry passengers to the yacht seized and sold, for about £4.5 million.

One of Mrs Akhmedova’s advisers is quoted as saying that: “The net has been closing on Mr Akhmedov for a while now, and the sale of this helicopter proves that our enforcement methods are not just working but bearing fruit”. However, a spokesman for Mr Akhmedov said that the net value of the helicopter was “negligible”, and that “Mr Akhmedov and the Akhmedov family trust remain confident that their legal efforts will continue to be successful in preventing the seizure of any meaningful assets”.

With respect, Family Law Cafe’s view is that a divorce court order must be obeyed. Whilst Mrs Akhmedova clearly has a long way still to go, the seizure of the helicopter at least sends out a message that parties should not expect to get away with wilfully failing to pay what a court has ordered.

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Family Law Cafe’s accessible team of legal experts from various disciplines expedites the customer’s case and keeps them informed and in control 24/7 through a unique and secure online portal.

Image of a Eurocopter EC155, similar to the one owned by Mr Akhmedov, by AKS.9955 [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons.

A Sharia court in Dubai has dismissed an application by a wife to enforce an English divorce court order that a £346 million luxury yacht ‘M V Luna’, which is currently moored there, must be transferred to her as part of the divorce settlement.

In December 2016 Mr Justice Haddon-Cave granted financial relief to Tatiana Akhmedova against her ex-husband Russian oligarch Farkhad Akhmedov in the sum of £453 million, and in April this year he ordered that the yacht should be transferred to her as part of the settlement. Mrs Akhmedova sought to have the order upheld in Dubai, but the Dubai court ignored the High Court order.

At 115 metres (377 ft) long, Luna is the world’s second largest ‘expedition yacht’ (i.e. yacht created for long distance cruising to remote areas of the world), and 23rd largest luxury yacht. It was formerly owned by Russian businessman Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club.

The case has raised concerns amongst lawyers over the difficulties of enforcing English divorce court orders abroad, although it is understood that Mrs Akhmedova may not have exhausted all of her legal options in Dubai.

Of course if you cannot enforce an order then the order is effectively worthless. The best practical advice therefore must be to consult an expert upon the chances of recovering property abroad, before issuing any proceedings. Family Law Cafe can help you find such advice. To contact us, click the Contact link above and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

You can read the second judgment of Mr Justice Haddon-Cave here.

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Family Law Cafe provides a genuinely tailored technology-based service, allowing customers to be as involved or as removed as they wish, and to benefit from as much or as little support as they require.

Image: Mega Yacht LUNA, by Tomás Del Coro, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Sometimes a celebrity divorce can act as a useful vehicle to educate the public upon the workings of the family court.

So it is with the divorce of TV presenter Ant McPartlin and his wife Lisa Armstrong, which has been back in the news this week, raising three separate issues.

The first story informed us that Mr McPartlin is reportedly paying his wife’s legal bills, “in a bid to get their split settlement finalised before Christmas.” We do not know if this is correct, but it is actually not that unusual for one party to pay the other’s legal bills. In fact, it is possible for one party to ask the court to order the other to make provision for their legal costs. This is called a ‘legal services order’.

The second story related to the couple’s pet dog, ‘Hurley’. Apparently, they are in a battle as to who will have ‘custody’ of Hurley. But if they can’t reach agreement, how would the court deal with such a dispute? The answer is that it will treat the pet like any other property, ordering that he should belong to one party or the other. It will not treat the pet like a child, setting out detailed arrangements as to each party’s contact with the pet. Accordingly, if you want such arrangements then you will have to agree them with the other party.

The last story relates to a hearing that was due to take place before Mr Justice Mostyn on Monday. Mr McPartlin should have attended the hearing, but failed to do so. He subsequently maintained that he had no intention to disrespect the court, and that he had been advised by his lawyer that he didn’t need to attend. Whatever, Mr Justice Mostyn told his QC: “There isn’t one law for the famous and one for the rest of the community. The rules say he was supposed to be here, and that can be reported. He has been told off.” The moral is clear: whoever you are, you must obey the rules of the court!

If you require detailed advice regarding any of these matters, then you should consult an expert family lawyer. Family Law Café can help you find an expert. To contact us, click the Contact link above and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe surrounds and supports the customer with both legal and pastoral care, end to end, from top barristers to case workers to therapists and mediators, to help the customer get the best possible result with the minimum stress.

Image of Ant McPartlin by Damien Everett, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A husband involved in financial remedy proceedings has been ordered by a judge not to pay any money to his lawyers, unless he pays an equal amount to his wife’s lawyers.

The husband had previously been ordered to pay the sum of £40,000 for six months, to cover the wife’s legal costs. He failed to do so, claiming that he could not afford to pay. However, he did pay the sum of £95,000 to his own lawyers.

Hearing the case in the High Court Mr Justice Holman said that that it was “intolerable and an affront to justice” that the husband had paid £95,000 to his solicitors, at the very time when he should have been paying the costs order. He therefore made an injunction forbidding the husband from paying any further money to his lawyers, unless he pays an equal amount (i.e. pound for pound) to the wife’s solicitors towards satisfaction of the costs order.

The husband’s counsel objected to the order, claiming it denied the husband the means of obtaining legal advice, which he submitted was contrary to principle and impermissible. However, Mr Justice Holman said that the injunction was not intended to deny, nor was it denying, the husband the means of obtaining legal advice – he could go straight out and pay £100,000 to his lawyers for further legal advice, the only condition being that he also paid pound for pound £100,000 to the wife’s solicitors.

The injunction is an interesting way to try to force the husband to pay the costs order. It will also be interesting to see if the husband will appeal against it, particularly as some legal experts are unsure as to whether Mr Justice Holman had the power to make such an order.

You can read the full judgment in the case here.

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Family Law Cafe surrounds and supports the customer with both legal and pastoral care, end to end, from top barristers to case workers to therapists and mediators, to help the customer get the best possible result with the minimum stress.

Image: ‘Money Scales‘, by Images Money, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

It was originally expected to be a case that might change the law on the so-called ‘meal ticket for life‘, whereby one spouse is ordered to pay maintenance to the other, possibly for the rest of the other spouse’s life. Graham Mills, who has been paying his ex-wife Heather maintenance since they were divorced in 2002, had wanted to argue before the Supreme Court that the law should be changed so that one spouse should not have to pay maintenance to the other for life.

In the event, Mr Mills was only granted permission to take his case to the Supreme Court on the limited ground of whether, provision having already been made for Mrs Mills’ housing costs in their 2002 capital settlement, the Court of Appeal erred in taking her housing costs into account when it decided to increase her maintenance last year.

The Supreme Court has today unanimously allowed Mr Mills’ appeal. Giving the leading judgment, Lord Wilson said that the judge at the original hearing (in 2015 of the husband’s application to discharge or reduce the maintenance and the wife’s cross application to increase it) was entitled to decline to vary the maintenance so as to require the husband to pay all of the wife’s rental costs.

Provision for the wife’s housing had been made in 2002 when she was awarded capital to rehouse herself, but she instead exhausted the capital by entry into a series of unwise transactions, and so developed a need to pay rent. Lord Wilson said that a court would need to give very good reasons for requiring a spouse to fund payment of the other spouse’s rent in these circumstances.  A spouse may well have an obligation to make provision for the other; but an obligation to duplicate it in such circumstances is most improbable.

The order of the Court of Appeal was therefore set aside and the original order, that the maintenance should remain at the same level, was restored.

You can read the full Supreme Court judgment here.

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Family Law Cafe surrounds and supports the customer with both legal and pastoral care, end to end, from top barristers to case workers to therapists and mediators, to help the customer get the best possible result with the minimum stress.

Image: ‘Fan of Money and House‘, by Images Money, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

“Why is divorce so expensive? Because it’s worth it!”

It’s an old adage, variously attributed to musician Willie Nelson, author Garrison Keillor, comedian Henny Youngman, and probably many others. The latest celebrity to use it is rapper Professor Green, who reportedly admitted to comedian John Bishop in an interview that his divorce from actress Millie Mackintosh was costly. He joked: “You know what they say about divorce – it’s expensive. You know why? Cos it’s worth it!”

But does divorce have to be expensive?

We wrote here just last week about the divorce of Latvian millionaire Valeri Belokon who had run up over £1 million on his on-going divorce proceedings. Despite this the judge hearing the case, Deputy High Court Judge Richard Todd QC, said that these costs were not unreasonable. Clearly, however, most people cannot afford even a fraction of that sum.

So how can you keep your costs down? There are a number of ways.

Firstly, you should try to agree matters if you possibly can, whether through solicitors or by some other method, such as mediation or collaborative law (see this post). You will, of course, need to know what you are entitled to, and you should seek legal advice before agreeing to anything. We can help you find that advice.

If you are unable to agree matters then there are still ways that you can reduce costs. You can, for example, go to arbitration (see also this post), which is usually cheaper than contested court proceedings. Even if the case does go to court, you can ensure that costs are minimised by, for example, keeping your expectations realistic and not incurring costs on unnecessary or irrelevant matters. Again, we can help you get the advice you need to guide you.

As to whether your divorce was worth it, we will leave to you to decide!

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Family Law Cafe surrounds and supports the customer with both legal and pastoral care, end to end, from top barristers to case workers to therapists and mediators, to help the customer get the best possible result with the minimum stress.

Image of Professor Green by Eva Rinaldi, licensed under CC BY 2.0.