Le­gal win fu­els ‘di­vorce tourism’ fears

The Herald - - NEWS - MARTIN WIL­LIAMS SE­NIOR NEWS REPORTER

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.

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