An imaginative way to avoid financial claims following divorce

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As family lawyers we’re well accustomed to hearing a wide range of arguments on why financial claims made following divorce are unfair or unreasonable, but a recent case took a particularly inventive approach.

A Saudi Arabian billionaire had divorced his wife of 13 years via the Islamic practice of Talaq, which permits men to end their marriages simply by saying “I divorce you”, three times. His ex-wife then made an application to the High Court in England seeking a share of his fortune which has been estimated at £4 billion. She made her application under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 which allows English Courts to make financial orders following a financial divorce. Her application was opposed however on the grounds that her former husband had diplomatic immunity and that he could not therefore be sued in the UK.

On investigation, it transpired that he had become a diplomatic representative of the Caribbean island of St Lucia. Coincidentally, his appointment had been made just after their divorce. His Lawyers argued that this should prevent the application continuing. His diplomatic appointment was made notwithstanding his having no apparent connection with St Lucia and not being a citizen of the island. It also appeared that he hadn’t taken up his appointment to the International Maritime Organisation on behalf of St Lucia where he had failed to attend a single meeting of that organisation since his appointment.

At the Royal Courts of Justice, his appointment was labelled “an entirely artificial construct” and his claim of diplomatic immunity called “spurious”. The Judge declared that he had “sought and obtained a diplomatic appointment with the sole intention of defeating claims consequent upon the breakdown of their marriage” The businessman’s legal team have said they will appeal this decision.

At Slee Blackwell, our specialist family team will be frank with you right from the start whether you’re looking to make financial claims on divorce or facing claims being made against you. We pride ourselves on having an exceptionally high level of expertise and experience across the team. We’ll tell you which arguments can properly be made and which are doomed to failure. We’ll always be realistic with you about your chances of success and the likely costs you will incur. But we’re unlikely to recommend a sudden attempt to procure a diplomatic appointment as your best remedy!