Those who fail to cooperate in divorce proceedings may get away with it for a while, but they will ultimately be hit even harder in the pocket. In one case, an international business tycoon who dragged his feet was ordered to hand over almost half of his £130 million fortune to his ex-wife.
The couple, aged in their 70s, had been married for 46 years before the husband divorced the wife in an Islamic ceremony. During their marriage, the husband had enjoyed enormous success as a hotelier, financier and property developer. The wife had lived in London since their separation and launched proceedings under the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 in England.
The husband disputed the jurisdiction of the English courts to consider the wife’s claim on the basis that she was habitually resident in Portugal. He had been ordered to pay maintenance and legal costs to the wife but had fallen £740,000 into arrears. Due to his lack of cooperation, a worldwide injunction had been issued against him, freezing his assets up to a value of £125 million.
In accepting jurisdiction to hear the case, the High Court noted that the wife had been living in London for two years since the separation. The couple had lived in England earlier in the marriage; both had permission to remain permanently in the UK and the wife was eligible for naturalisation as a British citizen.
Due to the husband’s failure to participate in the proceedings, the Court had to take a rough and ready approach to valuing the marital assets. It put their worth at just under £130 million, of which the wife was entitled to over £61 million. After such a long marriage, there could be no serious argument that the sharing principle should not be applied. The Court noted that the husband had been given every opportunity to be heard and, due to his unhelpful attitude, could not complain that the assets had been overvalued or that the award to the wife was over-generous.