July saw a landmark judgment from the Supreme Court of interest to family lawyers across the UK.
Mr Villiers, the appellant husband and Mrs Villiers, the respondent wife were married in 1994 and lived almost the entirety of their married life in Scotland.
Following their separation, Mrs Villiers moved to England with the couple’s daughter and Mrs Villiers issued a divorce petition in the English Courts. This was dismissed – with Mrs Villier’s consent – in favour of the writ of divorce which Mr Villiers had issued in Scotland.
Mrs Villiers also made an application under section 27 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 in England seeking maintenance from her former husband. His lawyers argued that the English Court did not have jurisdiction to deal with this application. At first instance, at an interim hearing, Justice Parker considered that the English Courts did have jurisdiction and made an order that Mr Villiers pay £2,500 per month in interim maintenance as well as £3,000 per month for legal funding. The Court of Appeal upheld this order, which Mr Villiers’ team then appealed to the Supreme Court to over turn.
So the Supreme Court had to decide whether the courts of England and Wales have the power to stay an application for maintenance pursuant to section 27 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 on the grounds of ‘forum non conveniens’ when divorce proceedings are taking place in Scotland Forum non conveniens is a discretionary power that allows courts to dismiss a case where another court, or forum, is much better suited to hear it.
The case also considered technical matters of law concerning whether divorce proceedings and maintenance proceedings are ‘related actions’ for the purposes of Article 13 of the Maintenance Regulation 2011
Much to the interest of family lawyers across the UK the Supreme Court ruled that it was possible for the wife to decide where she applied for maintenance, and so benefit from England’s much more generous maintenance awardsthan those in Scotland, allowing for longer payment terms, and higher awards.
I would imagine this judgment will be challenged again once the UK leaves the EU at the end of 2020.
Also, it seems to me that Mr Villiers might reasonably have anticipated that Scottish jurisdiction would have covered all aspects of his matrimonial matter given that’s where he and his wife lived during the marriage.
Where you live, and where you petition for divorce has always been of importance to family lawyers. More so now than ever the Supreme Court seems to have raised a glass for always coming south of the border when you want to leave your partner behind.
If you’d like to read the full judgement of the Supreme Court, it’s available here.
If you would believe there may be cross-border complications involved in your separation please contact me at Bishop and Sewell on email firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone 020 7091 2869.
I am also offering half-an-hour consultation slots each Thursday afternoon between 2.00pm and 5.00pm at a fixed cost of £120 (inclusive of VAT). We can arrange to do this with you by telephone, Skype, Microsoft Teams or Zoom, depending on what you would prefer.
The above is accurate as at 28 July 2020. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.