The High Court has set aside the permission previously granted to the wife of a Russian billionaire to puruse divorce settlement in the English courts.

She had applied under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984. This covers applications for “financial relief” (monetary settlements) following divorces overseas.

The wife claimed to have received around $40 million following her divorce in Russia but she insisted this only a small fraction of her former husband’s wealth as most of this was made up of company shares not directly registered in his name.

He, meanwhile, opposed the application, claiming she had in fact received more $80 million in the settlement.

Sitting in the High Court, Mr Justice Cohen described the background to the case:

“H[the husband] and W[the wife] are each aged 58. They are Russian nationals and do not have any other nationality. They married in 1983 in Russia and have 3 children, aged respectively 35, 30 and 21 years old. They separated in 2007 (as H claims and the Russian courts have found) or 2013 (as W claims). Their divorce took place in 2014. On either basis the marriage was a long one and W is a fully entitled wife. Throughout the marriage the parties lived only in Russia.”

He continued:

“The parties were not always wealthy, but from around the mid-1990s H was able to take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities that existed at that time in Russia to amass a fortune. It is unnecessary in this judgment to go into any details beyond saying that H became massively rich.”

The Judge noted that the clashing claims regarding the amount the wife had received were down to changes in the rouble to dollar conversion rate during the divorce process.

Mr Justice Cohen concluded that the Russian courts had correctly applied Russia matrimonial law and the wife had insufficient connections to this jurisdiction to justify proceeding in the English courts under part III, saying her application was a:

“…I have come to the view that this is a classic example of a spouse whose background and married life was firmly fixed in her home country and who had no connection with England, whether by presence of the parties or their assets or business activities, seeking after the breakdown of the marriage to take advantage of what is a more generous approach to her claims [in the English courts] than she has been able to achieve in her home country after the fullest possible use of its legal system.”

Referring to the husband’s barrister, he continued:

“Mr Bishop is right to say that if this claim is allowed to proceed then there is effectively no limit to divorce tourism.”

The wife plans to appeal.

Read the ruling here.

Photo by Balkan Photos via Flickr (Creative Commons)