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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Bankruptcy denies wife £27,500 per month maintenance

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News reached me that a woman, said to be living on state benefits whilst seeking her share of her husband’s alleged £400 million fortune, has criticised the divorce system in the UK. Well, you would wouldn’t you?

Michelle Young, 47, who incidentally has hired the former head of Scotland Yard’s Royal Protection Squad to oversee her security after threats were allegedly made against her, wants her share of the fortune apparently amassed by her husband Scot, a fixer for oligarchs and billionaires. He claims the money went in a botched property deal and he now owes £27 million. His wife claims he has squirreled the money away in offshore accounts – and she has spoken of the “injustice” of this country’s divorce law. She believes it is weighted against women and allows wealthy husbands to legally hide funds offshore. Not an expert area of mine but I’m sure a forensic accountant would have something to say about this.

I have spoken in an earlier blog (Time for divorce law overhaul) about the fact that it is time for a change in divorce laws in this country. Whether or not it would help Mrs Young, who was awarded £27,500 maintenance a month in December 2009 – the biggest ever in this country – plus school fees and £1,500 a week rent for her Victoria flat in London, I am not sure. There are claims that the current system actually leads to more marriage breakdowns and leaves many children irreparably damaged by the process. Just simple steps like making pre-nuptial agreements and living together agreements legally binding and introducing a no fault divorce, could help significantly. These are quick and easy steps to take in my opinion.

Would these help Mrs Young? Well, while a pre-nup before she walked down the aisle might on the face of it have been geared more towards protecting her husband’s assets for his sake, generous provision could have been made in it for her and any children (they have two) in the event of a divorce. That would have saved the heartache, stress and conflict she is currently going through. Pre-nups are not simply vehicles to protect one party’s assets – a fact that is often overlooked. And they do, slowly, seem to be becoming more fashionable, if you will.

As for Mrs Young, well her husband declared himself bankrupt so has never paid the agreed maintenance. She is hopeful that at a court hearing in October she will be able to convince the judge that far from being broke, her estranged husband simply hid his assets to avoid paying her. It is a case which has links to celebrities as diverse as Simon Cowell and Sir Philip Green and I am sure there are a few twists to come.

Andrew Woolley
Family Solicitor

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