Lockdown has caused pressures on all relationships, even for wealthy international couples, according to an article in Times2. Recent high net worth divorce battles in the London courts have highlighted these tensions, and more are expected as we come out of lockdown.

Toby Atkinson spoke to Times2 about the issues faced by super-wealthy couples, the reasons for the attractiveness of the English courts and the jump in demand for pre-nuptial agreements.
The article explains that for families used to an international lifestyle with homes in multiple countries, lockdown has perhaps meant a bigger change in their lives than for most. While one half of the couple may ordinarily be globetrotting around the world to business meetings, both are used to a certain level of independence. This was largely taken away during lockdown. With many couples living in the same property without their usual luxuries, extravagant distractions, and ability to jet off to one of their other expensive homes, this brought about some “uniquely stressful pressures”.


The article states:

‘Toby Atkinson, a partner at Stewarts, says his company has experienced a surging caseload during the long lockdown months. “Prior to Covid, the children of separated wealthy international couples moved between their parents relatively seamlessly, often helped by the availability of a private jet and/or nannies to escort the children,” he says.

“Covid has complicated and often completely disrupted the arrangements for children of international families to spend time with both of their parents. We have seen an increase in cases over the last year involving disputes which have ranged from disagreements as to whether the summer holidays should be spent abroad or if it is safer and easier, due to quarantine rules, to remain in the UK, to how best to structure indirect contact, ie telephone calls and FaceTime.

“At the most serious end of the spectrum we’ve seen an upturn of cases where one parent has accused the other of abducting the children by not returning them to the country in which they normally live. In the last year, the reasons given by the ‘abducting’ parent have often related to the pandemic and the perceived increased danger of the virus in different jurisdictions.”

This has led to an increase in enquiries from high net worth couples, who often prefer to divorce in the UK.


The article continues:

‘The attraction of the English courts lies in their reputation for probity, the availability of some of the world’s leading lawyers and the judiciary’s paternalistic approach towards the weaker financial party, which is almost always the wife in high-net-worth cases.’

The article goes on to highlight the increase in ‘divorce planning’, leading to a spike in pre-nuptial agreements.

‘Last summer Stewarts reported a 122 per cent increase in inquiries for its services, including a jump in requests for prenuptial arrangements. Atkinson says: “Perhaps the general climate of uncertainty created by the pandemic has encouraged people to try to find certainty elsewhere in their lives. That includes ‘divorce planning’.’

“A prenup enables couples to disentangle their finances and separate amicably, privately and sensibly. This is particularly important where there are children since the co-parenting relationship will need to continue even if the romantic relationship does not. One could almost think of prenups as ‘anti-animosity and anti-lawyer insurance policies.’”

The full article in Times2 can be read here.



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