We’ve previously blogged about ultra high-net worth divorces with settlements in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Now we bring you details of one of the largest divorce settlements ever granted in a U.K. court. The case essentially confirms London, England’s status as a preferred location for super-wealthy couples seeking a divorce.
The couple in question, who have been identified by name since the publication of the original decision in which they were kept anonymous, met in Moscow in 1989. The ex-husband is described as a “oil and gas tycoon” who was recently listed on the U.S.’ “name and shame” list of officials and oligarchs with close ties to the Kremlin.
The former couple moved to London in 1993 where they lived in a £39m mansion in Surrey and had a £27.8m holiday home in France. They had two children.
The marriage ended in 2013.
The Woman’s Request for Support
Following the separation, the woman requested £350m (including £39.27m to purchase a home in England, £27.89m to buy a property abroad, and £5.36m a year to live on).
When the two parties had not agreed a settlement she claimed a further £93m, consisting of assets at the Surrey home valued at £2.5m, an Aston Martin car in Surrey valued at £350,000, and the former couple’s entire modern art collection valued at $112m.
The total value of her ultimate claim was £453,576,152 (more than $770 million CAD).
A “Subsisting Marriage”
Throughout the roughly 20-year marriage, which ended in 2013, both parties had affairs, but claimed to be accepting of the arrangement. The man had had a child with another woman. The woman’s position was that “marriages can survive affairs”. She provided evidence that the relationship had continued after her own extramarital dalliance.
Justice Haddon-Cave of the High Court found that the former couple had a “subsisting marriage” in which they continued to holiday and sleep together following their separation, and the woman was provided with “unrestricted” use of the man’s two credit cards, as well as access to his yacht, private airplane, and private helicopter. The couple continued to share a bank account. The woman also continued to receive gifts from the man, including €400,000 worth of jewelry the year that they separated.
The wife provided evidence at trial that showed that, following the split, she continued to be actively involved in the renovation of the couple’s holiday property, and that she was planning a “dream house” in the Caucasus. She also continued to be involved in purchasing works for the former couple’s substantial art collection.
The former couple shared astronomically high value assets, as outlined in the wife’s request for support.
The yacht, helicopter, and private jet were purchased in the man’s name in 2014, and then transferred to offshore companies. The yacht alone cost €260m and had undergone a €42m refit in 2016.
Overall, Justice Haddon-Cave found that the couple’s total marital assets were worth more than £1bn, wealth that had been accumulated over the duration of the marriage.
Division of Property
Justice Haddon-Cave noted that the parties had built up their wealth while married through “equal contributions to the welfare of the family, and should be subject to the sharing principle” (i.e. equalization).
He went on to say that a split approaching 50:50 was appropriate. He found that the wife’s claim of more than £450 million was “justified in all the circumstances”, as it comprised approximately 41.5% of the total marital assets.
What If This Was in Canada?
At the end of the day, the British court treated this case similarly to how a Canadian court might treat the same situation.
The division of property in this case was based on the principle that a breadwinner’s and homemarker’s respective roles are of equal importance. In addition, assets that are accumulated during the marriage are subject to equalization.
How Can We Help?
In any separation or divorce, an final agreement regarding division of the spouses’ property must be arrived at between the parties . Having a lawyer by your side to guide you and protect your interests is critical, particularly if you have significant assets, own a business, or have valuable property, pensions or substantial debt.
At Jason P. Howie, we regularly handle complex property division matters for clients in Windsor, Essex County and throughout the region. We approach property division as we do all family law matters, with a focus on providing individualized attention and legal advice tailored to the unique needs of each client. To speak with an experienced Windsor lawyer about complex property division, call 519.973.1500 or contact us online. Many of our clients are referred to us by former and current clients, as well as by lawyers, accountants and other professionals.