Aristocrat’s wife wins right to take divorce fight to England
AN aristocrat related to the Duchess of Cornwall has lost a legal battle to stop his estranged wife using English divorce courts in her bid to gain a larger share of his family fortune.
Charles Villiers, 55, has accused former spouse Emma of ‘trying it on’ in the English courts as a cross-border divorce tourist.
Mrs Villiers wants to settle her battle for monthly £10,000 maintenance payments south of the Border, where divorce settlements are viewed as more generous.
The 58-year-old insists EU regulations allow this, as she fights for a slice of Mr Villiers’s £5million family fortune.
But her ex-husband, a racehorse owner, challenged an English High Court ruling on the financial maintenance he must pay, insisting a judge in England has no right to intervene in a Scots divorce case.
But a judge in London yesterday ruled that Mrs Villiers is entitled to claim maintenance from her former spouse in England, even though their divorce is still ongoing in Scotland.
The former couple, who have a grown-up daughter, lived for all but one year of their marriage in Milton House, an 18th century manor in Dunbartonshire.
But, after 17 years together, they separated in 2012 and he launched divorce proceedings in Scotland.
Following their separation, Mrs Villiers and the couple’s daughter set up home in Kensington, west London. At the time, a judge ordered Mr Villiers to pay interim maintenance of £2,500 per month.
Mr Villiers was also ordered to pay £3,000 per month as a contribution to his ex-wife’s legal bills.
Mrs Villiers says she and her daughter need £10,000 a month to live on and that her husband has the means to provide for them. But barrister Michael Horton, for Mr Villiers, argued that an English judge had no right to intervene in a Scottish divorce.
Mrs Villiers, he said, had effectively been ‘rewarded for moving from Scotland to England’.
But Lady Justice King ruled the divorce action in Scotland related ‘only to the status’ of Mr and Mrs Villiers as a married couple.
The judge told the Court of Appeal: ‘Forum shopping is often regarded as being unattractive in family proceedings.’ Mrs Villiers, she explained, had not made a maintenance claim in Scotland and was ‘perfectly entitled to choose’ to do so in England.
In 2016, Mrs Justice Parker ruled that the English High Court had the power to help her, because she was by then ‘habitually resident’ in England. Mr Horton said that if this decision was allowed to stand, London could become the ‘maintenance capital’ of the UK.
Mr Villiers has family links with Camilla through his mother Elizabeth Keppel, daughter of Viscount Bury and the Duchess’s maternal grandmother, Sonia Rosemary Keppel.
He was declared bankrupt in 2013. Although he was discharged from bankruptcy the following year, the family manor was repossessed in 2015.
Mrs Villiers’s lawyers claim he is far from penniless and insist he has family money, including a half share in a £3.5million trust fund inherited from his grandmother.
They say his wealth ‘may be much more’ if a London flat held by a family-controlled company is taken into consideration.
‘Perfectly entitled to choose’
Sold: Milton House in Dunbartonshire Victory: Emma Villiers won her battle over maintenance
Legal fight: Charles Villiers