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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Is London the divorce capital of the world?

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London, indeed England in general, has often been said to be the place where wives in particular want to get a divorce settlement if they possibly can. By the way, many people say "get their divorce" or "divorce settlement" but they really mean the financial settlement I think.

Divorce is the ending of the marriage legally and financial settlement is separate, legally. But enough of the legalese!

The view has long been that the English Courts are the most generous in the world to the person in the marriage with the least funds, normally the wife even these days. Certainly that seems to be the case and as an example, England is even more generous than Courts in Scotland in which different laws apply. So, you can come across the slightly bizarre situation of a Scottish couple living now in England where the wife is arguing they should divorce in England and the husband desperately trying to avoid that.

But our Courts attract people from all across the world--no wonder our Courts can be slow! Certainly, we represent a large number of international clients in international divorce often expats but also, of course, people married to British people and those who can or would like to get a divorce in England.

Recently, it is reported that a Nigerian woman living in London has been given permission to appeal to the House of Lords after the Court of Appeal upheld a Nigerian court order granting her a fraction of the amount of money she would have received had her divorce been granted in England.

Sikirat Agbaje, 68, is reported to be suffering from severe financial hardship and is homeless.

The Nigerian couple had spent most of their married life in Nigeria, although during the 33-year marriage they had acquired British citizenship and had spent some time living in England. I can see that it would be possible for her to argue that the English Courts had power to deal with her case.

The EU has made laws that apply in cases where one is trying to work out which EU country has power to deal with a case when the couple have moved around the EU as is so often the case or indeed married someone from a different EU country. But those laws do not apply outside the EU.

I am sorry to say that many ordinary law firms get totally confused on these issues and often give wrong advice ranging from "you can't divorce here" to a perhaps more worrying "you can". It is a very complex area of law, with many traps for the unwary and needs specialist family solicitor advice.

Andrew Woolley
Family lawyer

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