Helen Ward and Emma Hatley recently featured in a Tatler magazine article listing the best divorce lawyers in the UK. The article states that London has accumulated the “very best lawyers in the world”, and here we look at why London is such a sought after place to divorce.
In the Tatler article, Helen Ward is lauded for her discretion when dealing with clients. She is quoted as saying: “I am hands-on, I do not waft into client meetings having just been briefed.” Former Spear’s Family Lawyer of the Year Emma Hatley is also mentioned.
Tatler says: “The reason London is such a popular place to carry out a divorce is that it is especially fair for the ‘financially weaker spouse’.”
Below we set out some reasons why London is a popular jurisdiction for divorce.
Why London is popular for divorce:
Power of the family court
Judges in the English family courts have discretion to decide the appropriate division of assets and are not bound by hard law. This is seen to make things fairer, as a judge can review each situation on a case-by-case basis depending on its specific circumstances.
Judges in the family courts have the power to order the transfer of property or assets from one spouse to another. They can also require ongoing maintenance to be paid to a spouse and this can be on a long-term basis, which is unusual in other jurisdictions.
The English court has extensive power to obtain financial disclosure of, and make orders against, assets held globally and not just those based in its jurisdiction. This can prove attractive given the global nature of business and the fact that many couples live increasingly international lifestyles.
The court can also reassess financial arrangements made during settlement negotiations if they are deemed unequal.
Equal split of assets
Usually, in England, a spouse is entitled to half of all marital assets unless there is a good reason for the court to decide otherwise. There are multiple reasons why this may be argued against, including the special contribution argument, but these challenges are very much the exception.
The division of assets can include the family home or other property, even if this was purchased before the marriage or using one spouse’s pre-marital wealth.
While the English court will usually uphold most pre-marital agreements, even if they are signed in a foreign jurisdiction, they are not legally binding in England and Wales. They are often binding without question in other jurisdictions, but in England the court may step in if the terms of the agreement do not meet a party’s financial needs.
English court’s jurisdiction
You cannot simply choose to get divorced here – the English court needs to have the legal power (i.e. the jurisdiction) to deal with your divorce petition. For the court to have jurisdiction you need to be domiciled (a unique English concept) in England & Wales or you (or your spouse) need to be habitually resident here, or you need to have a combination of the two.
Choosing this jurisdiction to benefit your circumstances is often referred to as ‘forum shopping’. The basis for claiming jurisdiction can be complex and the English courts will not always grant jurisdiction if another (non-EU) country seems more appropriate. The timing of making an application for divorce, if there are other potential countries in which you or your spouse could issue proceedings, can also be critical.
For advice on whether England & Wales is a suitable jurisdiction to bring your divorce claim, please contact a member of the team.
You can find further information regarding our expertise, experience and team on our Divorce and Family pages.
Subscribe – In order to receive our news straight to your inbox, subscribe here. Our newsletters are sent no more than once a month.