Legal win fuels ‘divorce tourism’ fears
THE estranged wife of a wealthy aristocrat has been told she can claim a slice of his £5 million family fortune in the English courts even though they spent nearly all of their married life in Scotland.
The landmark legal battle between publishing baron Charles Villiers and Emma Villiers has sparked fears of “divorce tourism” as claimants look to take advantage of the “more generous” legal system south of the Border.
Mr Villiers, 54, a distant relative of the Duchess of Cornwall, said that his estranged wife was “trying it on” by going to England to pursue her bid.
But, in a groundbreaking decision, top judges in London have ruled that Mrs Villiers is entitled to claim maintenance there.
The decision came even though their divorce is still continuing in Scotland, Lady Justice King told the Court of Appeal.
Mr and Mrs Villiers married in 1994 and settled in Milton House, an eightbedroomed 18th-century country manor in Dunbartonshire.
The former couple, who have a grown-up daughter, lived for all but one year of their marriage in the property.
They separated in 2012 after 17 years together, at which point Mrs Villiers moved to Notting Hill, west London, with daughter Clarissa, 23.
Both had disagreed on whether their arguments over money should be staged in an English or Scottish court.
Mr Villiers said their marriage was being dissolved in Scotland and argued that any fight over money should be staged in Scotland.
He said that if Mrs Villiers won her case, England would become “the maintenance capital of the United Kingdom” and face an invasion of divorcees from other home nations.
But Mrs Villiers wanted her battle for £10,000 a month in maintenance to take place in England, where divorce courts are viewed as more generous.
Under Scots law, inherited wealth is not taken into account when dividing assets after a marriage breaks down, while maintenance payouts are generally limited to just three years after a divorce is finalised.
But in England, Mrs Villiers, 58, could potentially secure financial support for the rest of her life.
Mrs Justice Parker has ordered Mr Villiers to pay her £2,500 each month in interim maintenance and left the door open for her to claim more.
Mr Villiers was also ordered to shell out £3,000 a month as a contribution to her legal bills.
Mrs Justice Parker also rejected Mr Villiers’ “jurisdictional challenges” and said any dispute over money should take place in England.
Three Court of Appeal judges in England upheld that decision and dismissed an appeal by Mr Villiers.
Charles Villiers, left, and estranged wife Emma Villiers separated in 2012.