Divorce jurisdiction shopping to suit financial needs

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Within the UK and internationally, Courts can differ on their view of the division of assets, leading some divorcing couples to look for the best country to divorce in. To further compound matters, situations have arisen where individuals are actively jurisdiction shopping within the jurisdiction.

In the past, cases in England and Wales were being issued in a specific Court as it was known that financial orders of a certain type were more commonly made in certain geographical areas.

This practice has now been largely eradicated by the setting up of a number of divorce centres throughout the Country. These centres are responsible for allocating financial applications to appropriate local Courts.

Even still, it has been identified that the financial orders made in the more affluent areas of England and Wales (these being primarily in or around London) would differ significantly and would be more generous than in the areas where the assets involved were more modest.

New guidance

In an effort to provide some uniformity of approach on this issue by the Courts in England and Wales the Family Justice Council has just released a guide titled Guidance on 'Financial Needs' on Divorce.

The guide sets exactly what the Court will consider 'financial needs' to constitute within divorce proceedings and aims to both educate the individuals involved as to what to expect and also provide a framework for the Judges to use whilst still leaving their overall discretion unfettered.

This guide has seemingly been produced at an appropriate time given that the High Court has just dealt with the financial settlement in the divorce of Sheikh Walid Juffali and Christina Estrada, in which the main argument was what Mrs Estrada's appropriate financial needs should be assessed as.

Mrs Estrada was seeking a total amount of approximately £238 million so as to meet her financial needs but the Court assessed that she should be provided with the sum of £75 million for this purpose.

When dealing with the financial aspects of a divorce, the English Courts have a range of powers and a wide discretion on how to deal with matters. However, given this is the largest divorce settlement in English law, this has understandably attracted a high degree of scrutiny not least as to how the Court determined what it considered Mrs Estrada's financial needs to be.

As the analysis of the judgement begins, it will be interesting to see how closely the Judge has dealt with matters in line with the new Family Justice Counsel's guidance.