Supreme Court Decision Effects Spouses Living Outside England
A Scottish aristocrat has lost a Supreme Court appeal which will have far reaching implications for those who have potential divorce claims in more than one jurisdiction.
In 2014, Charles Villiers, a relative of the Duchess of Cornwall, issued divorce proceedings in Scotland, where he and his wife, Emma had lived for most of their married life. The following year Mrs Villiers made an application in England under section 27 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 seeking maintenance from her husband, an area where the English courts have a more “wife friendly” and, many would say, fairer, approach to spousal support than Scotland.
Mr Villiers argued that the English court did not have jurisdiction to deal with his wife’s application but, by a majority, the Supreme Court have disagreed.
However, in a dissenting judgment, Lord Wilson said that the decision ‘will be the untrammelled licence given to a wife to go forum-shopping, in other words to put her husband at an initial disadvantage unrelated to the merits of her case’.
Indeed, the decision will add another level of uncertainty and the potential for so called “divorce tourism”. Equally the case highlights the English divorce court’s international reputation for protecting vulnerable parties and is bound to attract the attention of the wealthy for whom England has long been regarded as the divorce capital of the world.