Won't somebody please think of the tigers?!
The divorce case of Li Quann and Stuart Bray has hit the headlines due to the contested issue of whether assets in the charity they set up, should be taken in to account in their divorce proceedings. It is currently being contested through the Courts and is now due to be heard by the Court of Appeal.
Ms Li and Mr Bray were married in 2001 and a year before their marriage, they set up a charitable trust called 'Save China's Tigers' – aimed at doing just that.
Both parties devoted their lives to this cause but, unfortunately, separated in 2012 and Ms Li petitioned for divorce. Since that time, Ms Li has argued that the charity's assets, which amount to approximately £25 million, are marital assets because the monies were used to furnish their lavish lifestyle during their brief marriage. As such, Ms Li is asserting that she is entitled to a share of the £25 million as part of any financial settlement connected to the divorce.
Conversely, Mr Bray argues that all of the charity's assets were placed in trust by the parties – they are therefore not marital assets nor are they assets that either party has any personal control or claim over.
Save China's Tigers is registered in China, which may have different rules regarding how charities are operated. Was the charity a UK registered charity, it would be wholly inappropriate for monies held within a charitable trust to serve any other purpose than that of the charity's objects.
Despite the parties having spent approximately £2million already on litigation, Ms Li has been given permission to take her case to the Court of Appeal on the basis that there was a lack of detail in the findings made by the High Court Judge. In giving the permission, the Court urged both parties to try and find an alternative way to resolve matters that does not involve further litigating this issue through the Courts.
Legally, if Ms Li is successful in her argument the outcome of this case will have significant consequences in the future for individuals who have put sizeable amounts of money into trust for philanthropic purposes. Charities may find themselves involved in family court applications designed to try and claw back the monies that have previously been provided to them.
Whilst any party to a divorce is entitled to feel that they have received a fair and reasonable share of the matrimonial assets, it is a real shame that the thing both Ms Li and Mr Bray held so dear and worked so hard to protect during their marriage, namely the Chinese tigers, is now ultimately going to be what suffers the most as a result of their divorce.
For information on how to manage divorce proceedings, please contact Christine Plews in our specialist Family team.