In the divorce forum shopping stakes, London fully deserves its reputation as the best jurisdiction for the economically weaker party, who could end up with a much better deal there than anywhere else.
There is often a race to get to London and the potential of a good deal.
International couples with residences in multiple countries can often choose where they get divorced. But divorce is not like afternoon shopping in Bond Street or choosing from a Michelin-starred menu with infinite à la carte options.
Splitting couples typically have one or two choices as to where they can issue proceedings, each of which can produce dramatically different payouts. For the winner, much can depend on who files where first. And as unseemly as some might see it, to ensure a good deal litigants sometimes have to start the divorce race at a sprint: hours, even minutes and seconds can count in making a difference of many millions.
When a divorce is filed outside England and Wales, the party with fewer assets might be awarded much less money than if they had issued in London. In a few cases they could be given nothing at all.
London is seen as the divorce capital of the world for good reason: those with fewer assets will often get a much better deal there because English law is invariably more generous to the economically weaker party than anywhere else.
Because London is usually less attractive for wealthier parties, they may well be advised to file for divorce quickly in another jurisdiction. For the less affluent spouse, this can have dire consequences should they lose out in the race.
The key message is clear: weaker parties should file for divorce in London as soon as possible, once they have firmly resolved that divorce is the only option. If you are the stronger party, file elsewhere.
Multi-jurisdictional divorces are technical and complex. Because different rules apply in different countries, a central organiser is advisable to co-ordinate between jurisdictions.
Much around jurisdictional issues is in a state of flux because of Brexit. But all existing EU law is likely to be incorporated into English law after Britain leaves so the position may well remain the same: in forum shopping for divorce, London will continue to reign supreme.
Mark Harper, Partner
This article was published in The Times Law Brief and is an excerpt from Hughes Fowler Carruthers’ Expert Guide to Divorce and Money